To Harkoff, the business conducted in the tent was a blur of droning male voices and dry, exhausting heat. Nobody noticed when he passed out, right beside the Minister, because that was right after the argument began. Fat men, young men - men - jostled about angrily in their wicker chairs.
“Yes! Where the hell is the enemy?”
“Give me back my fucking factory!”
“This is all just a lie, you arrogant bastard - you’re here to scoop up what Ragzin left behind, aren’t you! That meeting you had in your precious airship was just to hand over the torch, wasn’t it?”
Open applause. The crowd started to feel like they were truly scaring the silvery man standing before an easel, gaining control. The satisfaction that smothered the rabble was obvious from the easel, fat bottoms found a new security, everything grew still and quiet. But now the ringing heat seemed to surge in stronger, the comfortability achieved for those brief seconds fast spurred into absent-minded stress. The fight seemed to waver.
The desert had been chosen deliberately for an assembly of Nela’s most influential businessmen.
“What do you say to that, Remesko, are you not just a tyrant? Once we turn this to the parliament, you’re finished!”
“Has anyone here ever seen a photograph?”
Everyone was dumbstruck. They expected drivel, five, six, seven syllable words, not causal dismissal.
Sherpie, this time. “No Noska, tell us. What’s a photograph.”
“They’re something we have Ragzin to thank for,” the old man smiled as the assembly realised their attention had been taken advantage over, and grew very angry.
“I suppose we have Ragzin to thank for you too, Despot!” More disembodied voices from the edge of the tent.
The old man waited for the heat to weigh down the wills of the men before him.
He started very slowly. “A photograph, is the recording of the likeness anything you can see.”
“Well how about that! Ragzin and his puppet Remesko paints us pictures!”
Sherpie tossed his seat into the hot sun, a small storm of dust erupted at his feet, and his steely gaze captured the audience.
“Stuck pigs! You vile creatures! For two hours now have I sat through your spoilt, childish tendencies, your belligerence! Now for the sake of my money, for your money, for the reputation of our great country, for the reputation of the ruling class of Nela, speak when you are spoken to, or I will personally put you all out of business, and then hand all your riches to this man in the satin pouch I was given by my mother on my fourteenth birthday.”
The pigs whimpered, curly tails between their legs. Sherpie didn’t bluff, Sherpie didn’t have to bluff, he’d been a very good sport these past few years, permitting competition with his steelworks he could have easily erased very quickly, because his family had close personal friendships with four of his six heads of steel producing companies.
“Go on, Noska,” the man went to go fetch his chair.
Not bothering to look at the crowd, The Minister produced a tube from his briefcase. His every move clung to, the tube was unrolled, revealing a parchment with a very detailed picture etched to its surface.
Suddenly disinterested and clinically despondent, The Minister continued. “The invention of the photograph has proved very useful to the international government of Malasrion,” he fixed the photograph to the easel.
“This is a photograph of a landship. This photograph was taken by one of my personal field operatives, and I have photographs of twelve more, in twelve different locations, with proof that the machines depicted actually are unique and distinguishable objects. Only two operatives have survived to give more detailed information about the supporting forces intended to be supplied with these enormous monstrousities, and information extracted from further photographic evidence and covert surveillance by these individuals triple our previous pessimistic estimations.”
Shrendig and Foolio were no-where to be seen.
“Gentlemen, I have come to inform you of the very possible impending destruction of Malasrion, and the enslavement of its populations. The Gremanese have not bothered to rebuild their world with our unguided and unobserved aid, they intend to destroy ours. All of you should now become very well educated in Gremanese history and sociology, as unfortunately for me, you will all soon become military officers. Let me start your new quest. The Gremanese are warmongers. For what reason did they need our aid? For what reason did they depend so totally on the produce of the Jousen? They destroyed themselves. They were locked in yet another reincarnation of a glorious revolution, and the merciless destructive power of their new technology - this blasted landship - dealt a terminal blow to the function of their empire. The Gremanese are experts in shameless deception and illusion, fooling you and I, and our mothers and fathers of the truth of their existence for millenia, learning all the secrets of our world from cock-sure explorers who we deemed idiots and genuinely foolish Nelen men who strolled just a bit too far into the treacherous woods of our south.
Gentlemen, I’m here to inform you of the beginning, not to recount an end. If you have sons and daughters old enough to fight, I suggest you spend time with them soon, because I can promise you, they will die.”
Harkoff was being pushed into a petrol-car…[to be continued]
I have it on very, very good opinion
“Noska, I’ve known you for thirty years - you don’t want to do this, you’ll go sick like Ragzin - just like Ragzin - you’re collecting too much power for one man,”