“You seem like a smart girl. Too smart for the profession you’ve chosen. A chip on the shoulder, perhaps? Class envy in the blood? Or from the other side, maybe. Yes… That’s it, isn’t it? An itchy self-loathing? An awareness of your comfortable upbringing? A bit of melodramatic, misplaced guilt at the social status your parents afforded you? Ha! You brats – you think you’re so clever, and you’re so very, very naive…”
Melissa Myung-Bo patiently sipped at her MelaCola™ and let the red-faced buffoon rant on. It was hardly anything new – she must’ve heard this sort of nonsense a thousand times, from a hundred different people. Same guff, same reactionary, reductive, reprehensible guff, from idiots mistaking their own blinkered pop psychology for insight. She sighed. At least the regularity of hearing it had tempered her reactions; the first bastard who smarmily tried to ‘show her the error of her ways’ had to learn to live with a few less teeth.
She smiled at the memory.
Noticing her faraway expression, the elder statesman abruptly halted his diatribe. He softened, and idly stirred his own caffeine-based bevarage while he chose his next words.
“Melissa… I know I must sound like a raving, past-it old fool…but there’s a reason I have been here so long. You have simply no idea how fractious, how feral even, the halls of power have become in this great City. Now that the scum-”
Melissa inwardly shuddered at the word, but maintained a blank visage.
“-have been put in their rightful place, everyone left wants to be top dog. Leader of the pack. That means having sharper fangs than the next ambitious little pup, and being more willing to resort to their use. Since we erected this magnificent dome, everyone within it has become that little bit more vulpine…”
Melissa couldn’t resist. “That means fox-like, your Eminence”.
Theo Marksson’s security detail visibily stifled a snigger. All five of them, situated in various tactically significent points in this plush 41st floor penthouse, managed to repress their mirth – but it was a close-run thing. Theo merely scowled, before continuing.
“Listen to me: The Spozi and the Deepo are this close-” He made a gesture with his thumb and forefinger, “-to tearing eachother apart. Already they are at loggerheads. Already they eye eachother, waiting for the slightest sign of weakness or uncertainty. Neither of them care about this beautiful place- “He pointed in the direction of the window, before rising from his chair and sweeping his right arm to indicate the idyllic landscape below. “Neither of them give a damn about what we have struggled for! These…these…these morons will destroy everything this place was meant to represent!”
Melissa eyed him with feigned curiosity. “And just what, pray tell, was it meant to represent?”
The most revered and respected man in the City seemed to sag, and he sighed. Sighed with the fatigue of over half-a-century’s plotting, scheming and, most importantly, winning. He returned to his seat.
“I… We wanted to give ourselves a chance. We couldn’t take everyone, you know that! Once you realise that, how do you decide? You can’t take those…those thugs, criminals, wasters, deadbeats! Not over decent, law-abiding, hard-working families! There are some, you know who they are, who are against the expansion programme for this very reason-”
“And you know as well as I do, your Grace,” she spat the word, “that as soon as an area is absorbed by the Dais it is immediately gentrified and its populace replaced by the overspill of your beautiful, majestic City’s excess population. So don’t you dare try to make yourself into some sort of martyr. You can spin it however you like in your speeches and press releases, but don’t insult my intelligence by trying to pull that one.”
Marksson siged again, this time a touch more philosophically. “The citizens who move in have proven themselves worthy of our project. They have shown their loyalty and enterprise – qualities which, need I remind you, have often been lacking from your lovely self.”
“So why allow me to stay? Why allow me to travel? Why allow me to write what I wish to write, say what I want to say, and do what I wish to do?”
Melissa was being facetious, but nonetheless it never hurt to make yourself out to be less intelligent than you actually were.
Theodore Winstanley Marksson gave a wan smile, and gave a nod to his senior bodyguard. Almost instantaneously they began to prepare his exit. Marksson reached across the table and shook her hand.
“Melissa… You are the only one who is honest enough to be rude to me. Well…you and my son. But he is an idiot.”
With that he winked, and made his way into the lift which was waiting to take him up to the Heli-Gantry. Melissa couldn’t help but smile, she enjoyed these occasional meetings with the Old Man. As the security detail shuffled into the lift, she made one last comment:
“I never know with you, your Eminence. You can be, at turns, so brusque, so patronising, so warm, so empathic, so cynical, so enthused, so dejected…”
“It is as a game of poker. To win, you can either try to look as impassive as possible, or show so many faces that nobody knows which one is the truth.”
Melissa could have sworn that she saw the slightest hint of sorrow cross his face, before the lift doors closed.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…☭