“IDS is an idiot.”
“Yes.”
“He’s a fool.”
“Yes.”

Emperor Murdok elongated the vowel when he said yes, so it became more like yeeees. After so many years of being a pantomime bad guy, he had lost some of the Antipodean urge to shorten vowels. When feeling particularly evil, it would take several seconds for him to say the word. Today was not such a day.

“I’m not worried about him.”

Murdok sat with his chin resting on his right hand, his elbow resting on his throne’s arm rest. His left hand appeared to be stroking something in his lap. It couldn’t possibly be a cat, could it? That would be preposterous. While he stroked the mysterious object in his lap, he peered at the stars oscillating around them. The light from the moon behind him created a partial silhouette in the gaze of his guest. It was dark enough for Darth Gideon not to be able to see the wrinkles of his chin pushed upwards by the pressure of his hand, but still, Gideon felt that he could sense them. Some part of his consciousness was aware of them. Somehow he could visualise the hairs on the backs of Murdok’s fingers getting caught between the ample folds of chin, richly moisturised with a cream that mere mortals would not be able to acquire.

His throne? Was it a throne? Could he call it a throne? Gideon imagined it thus anyhow. This was Murdok’s lair, and that was Murdok’s throne. Why Emperor Murdok chose to meet him in the darkness of a planetarium was anybody’s guess. Perhaps he liked to watch the stars. Perhaps he found something comforting about the darkness. Yes, that was probably it. The darkness. He couldn’t bear to be inferior to his interlocutor in any way, so he levelled out his old man’s eyesight by meeting people in darkness.

“Yes.”

Darth Gideon could see that the emperor’s affirmative answers were absent-minded rather than genuine. He was obviously thinking about something else. Maybe pondering his new love. What would it be like to marry someone that much younger than you? Gideon wondered if it was her head that he was stroking in his lap.

“It will go away.”

As Mercury passed behind Gideon and shone over his shoulder, there was momentarily just enough light to see Murdok raise an eyebrow. Something must have pulled him back from his reverie. Gideon had an instinct that the raised eyebrow was not in approval of his statement, but he chose to ignore his instinct. His father used to tell him that fortune favoured the brave, and Gideon had always believed him. (As you long as you also included the rich, and those of the poor who were morally pure. Fortune favours the brave, the rich and those of the poor who are morally pure. Of course, the morally pure poor could not prosper as much as the rich, but this was the way of the world, man. This was reality. The meek may inherit the earth, but not all of it.)

Anyhow, following his father’s advice, he had always found that a cocksure comportment and a disregard for the consequences of his actions had served him well. So he chose to adopt this line now. He pulled his cape to one side with his right hand, lifted his right leg and went to perch his boot on something in a manly, macho manner. Unfortunately, he had not scoped out the something to place his boot on. So he stood with his hands on his hips, his left leg straight and his right leg in the air, bent at the knee. It was certainly quite uncomfortable. He made a quick calculation that standing as he was would be difficult, but that the discomfort of doing so would be outweighed by the potential loss of face from accepting that he had acted recklessly in front of his master.

So, stood on one leg, he carried on.

“IDS has revolted. But the party still stands. And soon we will have our referendum, and we will win it, and people will forget that all of this happened. This won’t be a repeat of that whole tax credit thing.”

Murdok stirred and then the stroking stopped. He went still. Gideon wondered if he had been too brave. He shouldn’t have mentioned tax credits. And his right leg was hurting. Perhaps if he just moved it down very, very slowly, Murdok wouldn’t notice. But why wasn’t Murdok moving? Or speaking, for that matter. Gosh, he was a difficult man to read. So little actual, physical movement. So still. Almost like he was dead.

Dead.

Fuckity bugger. Was he dead?

A surge of fear was replaced by a moment of elation. This was quickly replaced by fear again.

Mercury shone over Gideon’s shoulder once more, just as Murdok turned to look straight at him. He did not seem to notice Osborne’s airborne leg.

He whispered, “Murder.”

Gideon was not quite sure if his ears were failing him.

“Pardon…”
“Murder.”

Murdok’s monotone seemed to increase the temperature in Gideon’s boots unbearably. He felt his socks moisten. Thankfully, he was wearing knee-high antibacterial stockings, made by Rocha, John Rocha. Old Daveyboy Laws had given them to him back when he wanted to be his friend. He may have been a Woburn slummer, and an idiot, but Laws wasn’t such a bad old fruit really.

“Tax credits. Fucking tax credits. They could have murdered you because of that whole fucking fiasco. They didn’t because of me. I saved you, Osborne.”

Gideon disagreed but chose not to make this public at that moment in time.

“And now you rely on the EU to save you. And so does my little Leremy Lunt. And so does Dave himself. And yet Boris seems to think it will kill you all.”
“Boris is an…”
“SILENCE!”

Gideon’s urethral sphincter really struggled with moments like this. Fortuitously, the feeling in his left leg had now completely gone, allowing him to focus on keeping his pants dry.

Murdok’s tone changed. It softened somewhat. “You need to be careful with the bourgeois ear on this, young Gideon. I understand your eagerness. I understand your need to cut spending. I even understand your need to be seen to be the one who sorted the country out, the hero who saved the economy with your realism and your hard-headed sensibility. You don’t just want to be the next Dave. You want to be the upgraded Dave, Dave Mark 2. Better, more serious. More imperious.

“I get that. I do, I get it. But what you must remember is that our friends in middle England do not see the disabled as unworthy of their financial aid. The disabled are victims, unwitting victims of fate, not responsible for their own misery. Our voters give money to charity to support precisely these people, charities who are disavowing you and your chums as we speak. The disabled are easy to pity, and the bourgeois love to pity. And they hold onto their pity. They exhibit it like they exhibit their casual use of labneh and za’atar in their packed lunches. Never forget that. Don’t attack the pitiable, Gideon. Don’t attack the pitiable.

“The scum, yes, okay. The scum who line our job centres, the workless who refuse to work, the migrants who come here to skive off us. They are the scum you must continue to attack to make your country great again. And to continue to have my approval.”

Gideon’s right leg was shaking. It was possible that his left leg was also shaking, but he still could not feel it, so he was not sure.

“Well?”
“Very good sir. We will find a way to back down on this.”
“Yes. Yes, you will.”

Murdok returned to stroking the object in his lap.

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