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... I stand before you naked to the eyes

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People are scared. It’s a fundamental truth. You want to know why the first monkey picked up that stick and turned it into a tool. It was because he thought that there was something waiting in the dark for him and having a pointy stick made him feel that little bit safer.

There’s that old quote - fear is the path to the dark side: fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Mostly right of course, but not very precise. Mostly what fear leads to is governments being overthrown.

Fear makes governments nervous.

Of course different governments have reacted in different ways. Some have tried to use fear – keeping the public so terrified of their nightmares that they can’t move, let alone fight. Others have tried to control them, monitor every single aspect of their life so there is no time for anything else. Others have made themselves the centre of the fear, a force so frightening nobody will face them. Some have even tried to destroy fear completely – wiping away the emotion.

On Planet Mall they had a simpler technique – they replaced all those little fears that given time could topple a government and replaced it with one fear – the fear of being different, of not being like everyone else.

 Which needed one thing, of course, it needed something to aspire to. Someone. To make everyone the same, you needed the template. If they didn’t, the Killer Queen would have been sent to the Seven Seas long before. Kashoggi knows it, though he’s not sure that she does anymore. She’s lost sight of the truth; of the world; of herself.

If she’s taught him one thing, in their long years together, it’s that no one’s irreplaceable. Though she has made it difficult for them.

But difficult is not impossible and if she’s complacent, he isn’t, he’s been looking at her with fresh appraising eyes and Kashoggi thinks she knows it. It’s probably obvious, years of devotion shifting to doubt.  And it had been devotion, hell he’d been nothing more than a snotty nosed kid when it all started, dragging around after her as she tried to convince the world she was the next big thing.

Of course, it’d turned out she was right. Though he doubted that this was some sign of divine powers - he hadn’t decided yet whether to call it proof that some people just had all the luck or evidence that perseverance really would win out. Maybe it was a power up deal, like in chess, you got across the board and someone made you Queen. You dragged enough henchmen around with you (scantily clad or not) and eventually they believed you just enough to hand you the world.

Truthfully, she’d had loftier ambitions back then, when they were both young and idealistic. She’d declared herself The Dreamer – but every Bohemian had harboured secret fantasies along those lines, even if few of them were foolish or bold enough to declare it so loudly.

That’s how they’d started. As Bohemians. Where the hell else would you look for individuals in a godforsaken rock like Planet Mall. Of course they’d both deny it, if challenged. The sort of denials that involved cattle prods and disappearances and long sojourns in the Seven Seas. But they’d been proud of the title once. Bohemian. Rebel. Unique.

Gathering slips and fragments, listening to the broken, skipping, twisted bits of music that still survived. Scrabbling through the wreckage of a culture. And now Kashoggi has the keys to the kingdom – to the archives, the library. To more information than he thought possible. All waiting to be destroyed.

But Planet Mall’s all bureaucracy nowadays, he’s made sure of that. He might not be big or grand enough to think himself irreplaceable, but there are still small ways to make it difficult for people. Like not leaving a manual. And the best thing about bureaucracy is that the delays are in-built and it was easy to siphon off things that won’t be missed from the incinerator’s ashes.

And perhaps it’s that – perhaps he’s read too much now, knows so much more than she does; or perhaps it’s just that her glitter has worn thin. But the devotion has gone. Anyone paying any attention to his face would see it, though maybe that’s the issue too – she’s not paid any attention to him for years, if she ever did.

It could almost make you bitter.

That’s the other thing about bureaucracy it teaches you to look for the silver lining, even if you have to prise it loose violently. And the bright side of never getting noticed is that you NEVER get noticed. Even when you’re letting destruction loose on the world.

The kid might not be the Dreamer, and honestly, Kashoggi couldn’t give a damn any more. He’ll do. He’s found his stick and now he just has to shape him because he’s tired of waiting for the dark.