“Ah, Antheri,” Giulian sighed. “It is sad but unsurprising that you think me a fool.” He could feel the foal’s presence near his ankles, but he needed to ignore that for a moment. “It is entirely unsurprising,” he repeated, moving slowly towards the man. “After all, so many of my predecessors have, clearly, been fools.”
“All of them! Even you! Soft! Unwilling to do what was needed! Unwilling to see what it was that had to be done! They are always asking, always writing, always peeking,” he gibbered, “those in the City, the owners of the factory, the bosses, the governors. They demand progress! They demand productivity! And you Administrators, every one of you, fools, blind sheep to be steered by whoever whined last!”
“No.” As long as he kept the man talking, he was unlikely to be shot. Giulian did not want to be shot today. “My position is to stand between the unreasonable demands of the governors and the unreasonable demands of the workers and find the balance that keeps everything working.”
“Your position,” the man sputtered. “Your position? What do you know of your position? Have you ever met the governors? Have you ever stood in a room with them for more than ten minutes? Have you ever tried to answer their questions? Have you ever disappointed them?”
It was a strange question. “No,” Giulian answered, wondering at the man’s grip on reality. “I was hired through the agent that worked with my previous posting. As were you. As was every Administrator and bureaucrat here. What are you on about, man?”
“The governors,” Antheri hissed. “The governors. Their eyes. Always watching. Always judging. And you, all you fools, all you damn fool Administrators, getting in the way, worried about the people, worried about the river. The river will be cleaned. The river will trickle through the fields and lose its taint. The people will live, or they will die, and there will be more. But the governors, Administrator, the governors. Their will is all that matters, irrational demands or not. Their will is All. That. Matters.” He jabbed the gun into Giulian’s stomach with each word, his eyes even wilder, spittle flying from his mouth.
And, finally, the guards stepped in, large, sturdy men Giulian had hired when the death of his predecessors began to look suspicious. They grabbed Antheri from behind, wrestling the gun from him.
“It is becoming clear,” Giulian told him, speaking loudly to be heard over the man’s incoherent screams, “that you have been affected by the stresses of the job and the crowded conditions of the Town and need a respite, likely in a quiet place off in the mountains. I will see to your transport there, Antheri, and go about the work of training your replacement.”
It wasn’t a quote so much as it was a compilation of Antheri’s reports on Giulian’s predecessors, but it was clear that the words got through to the man. He stiffened, a slow, mad smile crossing his lips.
“Then the governors will be yours to deal with. I wish you the pleasure of them, Administrator, you fool. I wish you the pleasure of them.”
Next: Right and Wrong
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