Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Kings and Credits

“You must have brain parasites.”

“I assure you, I don’t.  That’s a fair price.”

“It sure as hell isn’t.”

Henry was watching the traveler arguing with the shop keep.  She was a comely woman with long blonde hair and glasses.

“200 credits for a fuel cell?  How the hell is that fair?  I paid 150 on the last world and even that was high.  Plus, they had a war going on so demand was high.  What’s your excuse?”

“It’s the King’s fault!”

The woman smiled and raised her eyebrows.

“That right?”

Henry was glad that he had spent years learning how to act.  His advisors thought it foolish.  However, it was an incredibly useful skill that served him well during his excursions into the cities.

“It sure is.  He taxes me left and right and grows fatter by the day.  It’s criminal it is.”

Henry touched his stomach.  He might have put on a pound or two but he certainly wasn’t gaining that much weight was he?  He would have to increase his weekly training.  Another day per week would be necessary.  Image sadly was still important.

His gut did not show through the holo-putty of course.  He simply looked like an average man of average weight with no real distinguishing features.  The perfect disguise to blend into almost any scene.

“Why don’t you overthrow him then?  That’s what usually happens with Kings after all.”

Henry did not like where this conversation was going.  It wasn’t the first time he had heard the idea today.  He doubted it would be the last and that though worried him.  He decided it was time to speak up.  It could be dangerous but with the voice changer activated the chances of someone figuring out his true identity was very low.  Sometimes risk was part of ruling.

“Doesn’t that seem rather extreme?  He isn’t that bad” Henry said with a voice not his own.

“Loyal subject of the King, eh?  Funny.  First one I’ve met so far” said the woman.
The shopkeeper looked around quickly.

“I’m loyal!  Don’t be saying I’m not!”

The woman laughed.

“Ah, what a good sign.  Citzens worried about their government.”

“You haven’t found much love for the King so far on your visit?  Odd, I don’t hear many complaints.”

“That right?  You in the business of listening?” she asked looking him over.

Henry was worried that his illusion would falter.  However, he knew it was incredibly unlikely.  His advisors hated his excursions.  That meant his holo-putty was top of the line.  It was the best that money could buy for “his safety”.  It should hold.  However, the woman’s steely gaze still made him sweat a little under the putty.  Luckily such things did not show through the illusion.

“In a manner of speaking.  See that cab out there?”

Henry pointed to his infiltration vehicle of choice.  Cab drivers were wonderful.  They could go anywhere and very few questions were asked.

“It’s yours I take it?” she asked.

“It is.”

“So, people are generally happy with the King then?”

“Happy enough I think.”

The shopkeeper jumped into the conversation again.

“Bah, easy enough for you to say.  You tourist carriers have the sweet money and pay half the taxes I do.  You also deal with tourists all day.  The real people of the planet know what is what.  We are suffering under the King’s greed.  I don’t want to speak bad of him, but we all know it’s true.”

“My perspective is slightly different I suppose but…”

“Why don’t you want to speak bad of him?” the spacer asked.

“What do you mean?” asked the shopkeeper.

“You said this asshole is killing you with taxes.  Why don’t you just kick him out?  Hell, why do you have a King anyway?  Not exactly a common thing for a colony is it?”

The shopkeeper shrugged his wide shoulders.

“It just kind of happened.”

“How the hell does a King just kind of happen?” she asked while shaking her head.

Henry knew the answer of course.  However, it was always interesting to hear how the common people thought of such things.  The truth of history and the perception of history were almost equally important.  It took Henry a while to learn that lesson and he had lost much learning it but now it was something that was deep in his core.

“Kind of a tricky situation, truth be told.  Short of it is the original colony was planning to be a democracy.  King Henry’s great grandfather was captain.  Bunch of crazy stuff went down and the colonists decided a democracy was going to cause more problems than they liked.  They all trusted the captain so they just decided to name him King.”

The woman from the stars laughed.

“You’re shitting me.  You guys just decided to create a monarchy because you didn’t want to bicker?”

The shopkeeper shrugged.

“It seemed a good idea at the time.”

She shook her head and whistled.

“Brilliant.”

“It wasn’t all bad.  In fact it worked out quite well for years.  Things started to go a little off with King William, Henry’s father, but things were still doing alright.  Then William died in that skirmish a few years back and Henry took over.  He’s….a perfectly fine man…mostly.  Just not really leadership material and not good with numbers…he taxes and taxes and yet our treasury dwindles day by day.”

Not leadership material?  Not good with numbers?  Henry wanted to drop his disguise and punish the man on the spot.  However, he realized that such an action would be childish and would ultimately solve nothing.  These accusations were ridiculous.  He hoped they were anyway.  His disguise should hold.  He just hoped his acting would as well.  This had become quite a distressing conversation.

“Wow.  Still sounds insane, but I guess if it was working out for you guys for a while it’s better than some of the colonies that imploded from internal strife.  I went to Darvick about 3 months ago.  Place is a total shit hole these days.  Government totally fell apart.”

“Our government isn’t perfect, but at least the King keeps transportation running, the sewers operational, and the tourists coming.” Henry said with perhaps a bit too much satisfaction in his fake voice.

“Aye, he does do that.  I just wish he wasn’t practically stealing my kidney along the way.”

“Doesn’t he have help to solve these problems?  Are his advisors just morons? “

“No” Henry said.

“Yes” said the shopkeeper at the same time.

The spacer laughed again.


“Another conflict of opinion between you it seems.  I sure hope you guys don’t implode like the other colonies.  Hopefully this King of yours gets his shit together.  You know what will help?  Continuing space commerce with potential repeat customers.  How about 150 for the cell?”

The shopkeeper shook his head.

“Nice try, but no.”

“A girl has to try” she said shrugging her shoulders.

“Do you really think the King’s advisors are no good?” Henry asked the shop keep.

The shop keep laughed.

“Oh come on.  Everyone knows they’re just sycophants suckling on the wealth of the King.  The only thing they’re good at is flattering him into letting them get more land and power.  They’re even more greedy than he is.  Hell, sometimes I think they’re just playing one big game with all of our lives and the King is just stuck in the middle without even realizing it.”

Henry had heard some troubling rumors lately.  This latest idea took root in his mind and started to grow in an uncomfortable manner.

“All politicians are corrupt.  I’m sure they can’t be worse than those back stabbers on Fregula” the spacer said off handedly while looking at some additional items on the shelf.

“At least everyone there is playing the same game.  These advisors of the King lie, cheat and steal, and yet try to pretend they are all noble and good.  It’s just despicable” the shopkeeper said shaking his head.

“Lets…let’s say this is all true.  If you were King what would you do about it?”

The shop keeper shrugged.

“No idea.  Not sure anything can be done, honest.”

The spacer looked at the two of them a moment and then laughed again.

“Oh come on.  If it’s as bad as you say the King’s choice is obvious.  Throw them all out and get some honest advisors from the people or off world.  After that follow the money and see where all the taxes are actually going.  My guess is that they’re not going where the King suspects.”

“Might work I suppose.  All I know is that I’m sick of paying so damn much.”

“Tell you what.  Let me have this fuel cell for 100 and I’ll tell some friends of friends to come this way and offer their services to your King.  I know lots of people.  If your king gets his shit together he’ll probably lower your taxes and then when I come back you can sell me a new cell for 75.  What do you say?”

“I think you’re insane.  Why the hell would I take an offer like that?”

The spacer was talking to the shop keeper but she was looking towards Henry.  She nodded towards him.  She knew.  Henry wasn’t sure how but somehow she knew.  It was a good strategy based off his latest information.  There were a lot of unknowns but it seemed wise.  Henry nodded.

“I…I think the plan has merit.  Since I’m a patriot I’ll make up the difference.”

The shop keeper looked surprised.  The spacer did not in the least.  Henry took a 100 credit chip out of his pocket and put in on the shop keeper’s counter.

“Are you sure?” the shopkeeper asked.

“Absolutely” Henry said and for the first time in a very long time he meant it.

“Very kind of you, good cabby” the spacer said with a slight grin on her face.
“As I said, I’m a patriot” Henry said.

“We’ll just have to test that won’t we?” she replied.

“Yes, yes we will.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing how this King does in the future” she said with a wink.

“As am I” Henry said with the slightest of bows.

*****
Sorry for the lack of posts the last few days.  I've been busy with lots of random work/life stuff and I've been feeling a little out of sorts.  Hopefully things will get better as the week moves forward.

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