Well, it didn’t take long for the fig leaf to get plucked off that lie.

It’s rare that you get someone willing to admit they’ve found a way of saying ‘nigger‘ without having to use the word.

Once again, times are scary and there are monsters.

Ovid Karr sat in his office, behind his desk, absolutely fuming. He tapped a button on his keyboard and the wrinkled face, luminous smile and twinkling eyes of aged August Buckner filled the screen, his high nasal voice recounting very, very clearly into a news microphone how he had made the Regent’s latest proclamation more palatable. “Sure, sure we want them out of the country. Of course. But you can’t just do that. So I said, ‘let’s make it about security. They’re dangerous. We can get rid of them like that.’ And what do you know? It worked!”

Karr jumped, very slightly, when the head of his security detail, a beefy man with a transmitter in his ear, stepped out of the corner and said quietly, “They’re here, Mr. Karr.”


A second member of the detail, materializing from a different corner of the room, opened his office door to admit August Buckner while Ovid paused the recording.

August Buckner was short, so short, but lavishly dressed and much older than he looked. The Regent’s money had been good to him, the comforts and conveniences of lackyhood suited the man well.

Karr stood up and walked in front of his desk. “August, thank you for coming. I assume you know why you’re here.”

“For talking, sure. But hey, we won and we’ve got the ban, so who cares?” Buckner looked around the room with his eyes, keeping his neck still. “These are… this is a pretty crowded room. Worried about something, Ovie?”

Ovid pursed his lips tightly and glared at the old man. “Mostly, I’m worried that you aren’t fitting in anymore. Look, I’m not too proud to say that we need you. People eat you up, they just do. It’s a fact.” Ovid Karr took a heavy, pewter paperweight that depicted a squatting Atlas holding up a cold, dull, metallic world, and idly passed it back and forth between his hands. “It’s been nice to have you to drag in front of the cameras. To wave and smile and go through the routine where we say, ‘the most popular governor ever, the war hero, the Uniter himself, he likes us so why don’t you?'” Karr stopped fidgeting with the paperweight, grasping it firmly in one hand, his knuckles white. “But lately you’ve become less a figure of inspiration and more like a gregarious, drunken uncle. And, to be blunt, we’re done with that.”

“Is this what I think it is?” His voice was pinched with anxiety and several of his syllables were more squeaks than language.

“No, it’s worse.” Karr smiled, not for the first time in his life, but close to it. “You’ll live, but in a dark, deep hole. And the only time you’ll get any sunlight is when I tell you to flash that sunny, toothy smile of yours. And the second you make me regret parading you in front of the people, that’s the minute that dark, deep hole becomes your tomb.” Buckner’s bright eyes became slick with sick fear and Karr’s whole body trembled pleasantly.

“The Regent won’t allow this. He won’t!” Buckner’s voice hit a particularly unpleasant pitch. Karr suddenly lifted up the pewter paperweight and brought it crashing down with full force on Buckner’s flapping jaws, silencing the man and knocking him to his knees.

“There will be no appeals to the Regent. This is final and if you ever want a different, better arrangement you should pray that I die before you.” Karr stood up erect, his whole body trembling pleasantly. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and stuffed it roughly into Buckner’s mouth.

Karr nodded to the security detail, savoring how deep and throaty his own voice sounded in comparison to Buckner’s, “take him out through a service entrance. Get him home and work him over.” The agents grabbed August’s arms,pinned them behind him, lifeted him to his feet and forced him out the door.

Karr pulled out his phone, pressed a button and held the device to his ear. “Dear Sir, we’re keeping it out of the news for now, but Buckner’s taken a fall. Dear Sir, it’s a bad fall. The doctors are doing tests now, brain tests. Who knows what they’ll find,” Karr fell silent for a moment and watched headlights pull out from the High Palisades’ west gate and then turn north. “Yes, a real tragedy. Oh, I suspect he’ll be alright. But he’ll need care. Lots of care and, not to be crass, but this might be a perfect time to roll out that healthcare plan we were talking about. You remember the one. Yes, that plan. Let’s really let Buckner put a human face on it.”


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