Even one who knew the cost of its construction could not deny the sheer, breathtaking beauty of the Dais on such a day. The Sun, amplified and warped by the translucent canopy, seemed to shimmer in the Autumn sky, and the park in front of the imposing Directorate Headquarters was brimming with flora and fauna. Eye-catching plants and animals, some brought back from extinction and others genetically retooled so as to be no threat to human life, blessed the green common which had become affectionately known to Dais inhabitants as ‘Dial Square’. At its centre, the twenty-eight foot sundial from which the park earned its unofficial moniker appeared to worship the heavens. ‘Thank you’, it might have said. ‘Thank you for all that you have surrounded me with.’
Priscilla Letchkov was completely oblivious to the wonders of her environs. A cool, collected and unwavering individual, the recently-appointed Director of Pragmatic Organisation fixed Melissa with an unimpressed stare. Myung-Bo was no shrinking violet, but she nonetheless found it hard not to flinch in the face of such a glare. So this is what her Deepo minions have to endure. Letchkov had not to speak a word to convince her audience of the authority she possessed; it emitted from her eyes like a solar flare – beautiful, but potentially lethal.
“The Spozi are thugs, pure and simple. Their methods are medieval, their manner uncouth, their objectives incoherent. They are all bloodlust and no brains. They exhibit no foresight, no strategy, no…chicanery, if you’ll excuse the ugly term. There is no…there appears to be no plan. When you acknowledge this, it becomes more easy to see how readily they can tread on the toes of our…more delicate operations.”
Letchkov’s words were incendiary, but her tone was bored. She paused to briefly suckle on her Holmespipe. Cigarettes, cigars and pipes of tobacco might well have been a thing of the past, but many still had an oral fixation that required satisfaction. Added to this was an overt fascination with stories from the past and antique implements, a nostalgia for a bygone age. Electronic models of centuries-old smoking apparatus were in vogue.
Melissa Myung-Bo waited patiently. This was her, what? Twentieth? Twenty-fifth? It was her twenty-somethingth meeting with Priscilla, and every time it gave her pure gold in terms of inside information. She could not use any of it, of course – the Directorate’s operatives were far more zealous than the Old Man’s at identifying and neutralising her recording equipment. Nonetheless, these conversations gave her a vital insight into the functioning of the Authority.
“So… There has always been a little friction. You could argue that the Secretariat are yesterday’s men. They were needed – my stars, without them the whole island would have descended into anarchy decades ago! We owe the Spozi, of that there is no doubt…but anyone with eyes can see that these are different times. The era of unsubtle enforcement must end.”
Melissa had the unsettling and unfamiliar feeling of sympathy for the Secretariat. An unwelcome sorrow, at how easily they could be dispatched. This was bizarre. They were the fearsome opponents of every aspect of social justice she believed in, and their fanatic devotion to the Dais and the Authority was absolutely unquestioning…and yet, Melissa could not shake the notion that their viciousness was preferable to that of the formidable figure before her. Their abhorrence had an honesty to it, at least. She got the sense that Priscilla Letchkov’s lot would hug the hinterlands tight while surreptitiously ripping out its guts.
“We have but one remit. You know it, but it bears repeating”. Priscilla punctuated the next sentence by softly slamming her right fist into the palm of her left hand at every key word. “‘To organise-” punch “-facilitate-” punch “-and coordinate-” punch “-all activities in the Dais and beyond which pertain to Authority programmes.’ Now, you are a smart girl…”
Melissa groaned inwardly. The second time in a day she had been called a ‘smart girl’ – something told her that Priscilla saw her as anything but.
“…so surely you can see how much of an obstacle the Spozi represent, the sort of barrier they are to progress. Nobody wants the SPO to disintegrate, for heavens’ sake…”
This, it was clear to Myung-Bo, was precisely what Letchkov wanted.
“…but they must be reorganised so that our two wings of government can beat in harmony, lifting our Authority to even greater heights!”
There was a fire in Priscilla’s eyes. An excitement of almost carnal nature, a passionate exhilaration. She totally and utterly believed her own mendacious words. The hallmarks of a pathological liar.
“Are you cold? We can go in.”
For a second, Melissa wanted to object. Being near to the noble wonders of Dial Square made for a nice counterweight to the cynical machinations of Director Letchkov. However, it was obviously less suspicious to agree to the offer.
“Thank you, Madam Director. I hope I didn’t pick up something while I was outside the Compound.”
Priscilla shook her head, put an arm around Melissa Myung-Bo’s shoulders, and smiled with a maternal air.
“My dear, whatever we have to fear, it does not lie out there.”
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…☭