Emperor’s Bet

- Dear citizens of the Empire! I congratulate you on the anniversary of my reign!
The Emperor had waited for a proper pause and gestured to calm down the applause, then went on:
- During this time, a lot of work has been done! The claimants to the throne are exterminated! The absolute centralization of power in my hands has been achieved! The wars with all the neighbors were victoriously completed, which allowed the abolition of urgent military service as unnecessary. The entire population is fully provided with passport implants, which makes communication with government agencies and banks as easy as possible. The total surveillance is established. Now I know everything about you, even the fact that you hate listening to my appeals to the people. And I still love you.

His Majesty winked at the audience (the broadcast was over the whole Empire) and splashed the mineral water from the decanter, letting the audience laugh obsequiously.

- Each of you has something to go to jail for. Petty theft, tax evasion, ticketless travel, perjury, domestic assault and, of course, the notorious passage of the street in the wrong place. You all should be arrested. Instead of this... Amnesty! To all political prisoners and those who are convicted of minor crimes. And more: taxes! From that moment they are all canceled and the debts are forgiven.

A small advantage of absolutism: any whim has the power of law. Hehe ...
The last couple of phrases were not foreseen in the speech, and the disillusioned crowd - the full stadium of people - began applauding only after the Emperor's short laugh.
Tearing off the ovation with a wave of his hand, he continued:
- Yes, absolutism! And now I'll use it again, for - here he pointedly flung aside the sheets with the prepared speech and raised his voice - talking with you, my people, frankly. I am a perfidious, spiteful, ruthless oppressor. Once a philanthropist and an idealist, I became who I am now, because I wanted to save you from the ruling abomination, and just there was no other way to rise up among the rascals who came to power. And here I am, My Imperial Majesty, the worst scoundrel ever has ruled you.
I came to power and ruled the way that there is no forgiveness for me. However, I have not forgotten, in the name of what I have disfigured myself. I've been preparing for many years, and look! All oligarchs, exploiters, embezzlers, bribe-takers, corrupted officers, members of mafia and criminal clans, drug dealers and other crap are sentenced ... to the death penalty!
He waited for a few seconds, giving surprised whispers to escalate into exclamations and cries of panic, and letting the first of those restlessly looking around start pushing themselves toward the exit. And then he pressed the button.
Almost no one in the Empire suspected that the implants could contain a pair of tiny crystals of explosives.
- Boom! Another small advantage of absolutism - without any trial and сonsequences. And I do not have  to prove anything to anyone. Operators, please give a wider overview to the stands ... Wow! The cream of society! The elite of the Empire! And there was no even one a decent person ... However, I digress.
In compensation for such an unpleasant spectacle - all the property of these scoundrels is subject to immediate confiscation and will be strictly equally divided among all the inhabitants of the Empire.
He jabbed at the next button on the remote and happily noted how the video operator's eyes widened a moment later and his jaw dropped.
- Ah? Did you realize that the implant had reported you about your account balance? A fair amount, is not it?
Further - natural resources. Lands, minerals and other things are nationalized and immediately strictly equally divided among the inhabitants of the Empire. The relevant documents, - he pushed the next button, - were sent. Got it? A useful implant, don’t you think? And don’t worry about the explosives. It was left only in the chips of those, who are traitors ... -  there went the next button.
- Bloody punishers, - another button, again.
- The Legions of Death and special services, hated by the people, - another one.
- And also all sorts of antisocial and destructive elements – and another one!
- Now, perhaps, that’s all. The tyranny, the exploitation and the scum of the human race is over. You are rich, free and, I hope, already happy. Oh, yes, I almost forgot about dessert for this feast of rights and freedom!
His Majesty smiled crookedly into the camera, poked at the last button on the remote panel and fell down dead. The retinue rushed to him, shielding the lying body from the spectators, but immediately parted, revealing a bewildered leib-medicine man, who sat down, holding the former tyrant for a limp wrist.

- Dead ... - the doctor breathed out softly and froze, and with him all others, who had just begun to take into the lungs the air, to expose appropriate exclamations.
The woman stopped the recording, grinned, and puffed the smoke toward the screen:
- You cleverly fooled them, dear.
- Only in part about my death, and that's only because of the conditions of our bet.  Everything else was real.
The former Emperor did not participate in the watching, now. He was dozing in a hammock, swaying lazily over a weed-filled flowerbed. As the main character, he rewatched the record several times before.
- You know, I'm very glad that you agreed to bet.

- But ten years still didn’t pass since my resignation...

-  It did not pass, but, they already have built the monuments of you, written songs of praise and studied your historical heritage.

- Monuments? - the man stretched, tore a blade of grass from the flowerbed, he would want to chew it thoughtfully, but threw it away with disgust. – It’s waste to understand people! I did such terrible things before I came to power and during my reign! I killed several million people on the air, at least! What are they thinking about?

- They are thinking, they have lived well under the Emperor.

- And why don't they live well now?

- Now they are busy redistributing resources and power. I told you: freedom is not taken by the one who orders. People remained the same, and you did not solve any of their problems.

- Hopeless ... Lord, and I nearly killed myself for them! - He thought for a moment. - Well, I’ve really lost, Shelley.

- A bottle of whiskey from you and no more politics, as agreed, - the woman winked wickedly.

- The whiskey has been ready for a long time. Look in my bedside table.

She did not move. She kept on looking at him, this time without a smile, tensely waiting for the continuation. The man in the hammock stopped swaying, raised the edge of his hat and glanced sideways at her.

- Oh, yes, I almost forgot! - he smiled.  - I promise you that neither now, nor after ten years - never at all – will I kill myself for real. To hell with a delay - never, do you hear? They are not worth it. What a happiness, I agreed to this your bet! Well, well, stop sitting here, staring at me with this stupid smile. Go ahead for whiskey and glasses, it's time to celebrate my freedom.

- Are you saying that you will not return to them, even if they ask?

- Never! As for me, I’m going to put my own freedom to actual use.

The former Emperor pushed his hat over his eyes and began to sway in the hammock.

 

@translated by Svyatoslav Albireo, 2017

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