4 On Monday

May 10th, Year of our Fair Lord 10, Five Cities

9 a.m.

The workday begins. The cars are parked. The cabs are paid. The bikes are chained. Coffee’s hot. Clock is punched.

It’s when everything starts happening, so it’s the perfect time to stop it all in one go.

Fair Lord and Security Advisor Arthur Spade smiled pleasantly. Most of Spade’s smiles were pleasant. He had practiced them.

The sky was clear. The air was crisp. The summer leaves on sparse city trees were rustling in the wind. It was a lovely view from the near end of the Five City Bridge.

The King’s cavalry was coming, the long black snake of cars. All others were forced off the road. They’d told them to go back, before the aircraft had moved in. Those who lingered to see might not be allowed to go back.

They didn’t know this yet. It wasn’t fun without an audience, after all. Spade glanced back at the staring masses.

They were beginning to part, hardly knowing why, moved by the feeling of an approach. They turned to look back only moments later, as the Slight Twice King strode through the crowd.

Spade bowed and greeted his lord by his title, which was not something human speech could easily distinguish or remember hearing if it did. Then he gestured to the podium which had been set up for this purpose. There was a microphone on it, and a loudspeaker by it rigged into the public announcement system. The wired speakers all through the city had been set up for the purpose of emergency broadcasting, but Kennick was keen on other ideas.

The Slight Twice King cleared his throat. The cough bristled through the microphone and out of every port. It was like the city had coughed. He smiled.

“So here we are,” he said. His voice came back to him over the waters, almost an echo. “Here we are and you said we wouldn’t be. Mayor Blanyard? Here we are. You said you didn’t need us. We decided to come anyway. We’re kind like that. We know you need us. We won’t slight you, just because you slighted us. We hear from very reliable sources that you’re soon going to need some help.”

It was a joke, because he willed it so, and so the bodies behind him were willed to laugh.

“I hope your reporters are listening. I hope they are covering this. They’re not good reporters if they’re not. I hope they plan to prove what good reporters they are. Are you sending me your best reporters, mayor? Go ahead, send them out. Let them see where I am, and all the helpful support I have brought you.”

There was some time waiting then. The mayor would have to access the codes to turn the speaker on at his end. Of course he would. It was made that way. You had to have protocols, unless you knew the back door, and if you were the architect, you did.

“Mr. President.”

“Mayor Blanyard, please send out your reporters.”

“In a time of emergency, we send out our police first.”

“I’m afraid you’ll find them all very busy, mayor. That is, they’re about to be busy. I wouldn’t send them out now. I’d wait, if I were you. They’ll be too busy in a moment. Dangerous criminals about. We’d appreciate your full cooperation.”

“You picked a strange way of informing us. Was your office out of stationary?”

Kennick, as he was called in public, narrowed his eyes. He didn’t have to look at Spade. Spade gave a nod to the man at the radio beside him. There was a nod to someone else, and then there were two radios full of numbers and codes, and soon the sound of marching feet could be heard, all around the Five Cities, because there were other bridges, less impressive and not requisite for great speeches, but effective in their job of crossing harbors.

“Drop the bombs first, of course,” Kennick was telling Spade over the marching of the boots. “Rile them up. The firefighters go to the police, then you drop the next wave. The good reporters will be out by then. They’re told to be brave. You bring them to me. I mean, if they give you trouble, you do what you do, but if you can you bring them to me.”

“How many do you need, sire?” Spade asked. Now that things were underway, he let his eyes take on the glaze of distant thought. It was the kind where the thoughts did the thinking themselves and the mind contented itself as a voyeur.

The Slight Twice King answered, “I’ll know when I know. You can bring me most of them. It’s okay if it’s more than I need. I know you have things you like to do too, just don’t take what I need, and no leftovers outside of that. I don’t like it when there’re things left around I don’t know about. You’ll make sure they’re not worth knowing about after?”

“Yes, my lord. I’ll use the furnace.” Spade was excited, though he managed the monotone in spite of it. His hand trembled. He had to fist the cloth at the side of his trousers to still it. The glazed look in his eyes had brightened with an inner light.

“And you’ll bring me Blanyard? Make his picture huge on the front pages, okay, but alive, not dead? ‘Traitor.’ You say that first. Then all the relief and the joy and what have you that we’ve killed him dead. No pictures, not of the body, not for any but me—you know, since I’ll need proof, and only one. We’ll put it in the furnace after.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“A terrible day for rain,” Kennick added.

Spade looked up at the crisp blue sky. He squinted in the sunlight. “Of course, my lord.”

Kennick turned to face the crowd. He studied the staring eyes, the awe, the eager leaning, the murmuring.

There were a few squints he didn’t like.

“Spade.”

“My lord?”

“If your bunch aren’t doing anything, if you’re just waiting, you’ll secure this bridge end to end and it’ll be a good thing. You’ll keep it empty like it is.”

Spade smiled. It was not one of his pleasant smiles. He hadn’t needed much practice with it.

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