from The Headflux Chronicles, Book 1, by Will Lorimer
The Rich Chancellor’s rise to power at the head of the breakaway Federation of New Oldlands States was one of those epoch-making political events that come as a complete surprise to just about everyone. Certainly, none of the correspondents covering the Oldlands Congressional Elections in the Garpathian Mountains, a remote region previously best known for its bison cheese strudel and the prowess of its arm wrestlers, anticipated that the voters of Bogomill would elect a rank outsider whose only previous claim to fame was that he had won the Loo of the Oldlands Union.
There matters might have ended, had not a malfunction in the computer counting the votes cast for the President of the Union seen the representative for Bogomill nominated by the Independent Block — a loose alliance of Ruralist parties — win by a wide margin. Following allegations of vote tampering, the Independent Block staged a walkout and then formally seceded from the Union. A press release, issued an hour later, formally declared the creation of the Federation of New Oldlands States under the leadership of the former representative for Bogomill. Then, a few weeks later, the new chancellor’s lucky streak continued, when a large deposit of strategic mineral crucial in the nanufacture of nanokin products was found under the Garpathian Mountains; a discovery which transformed the fortunes of the impoverished regions overnight and earned the new leader of breakaway Federation of New Oldlands states the nickname of the ‘Rich’ Chancellor.
‘That all would be to the good, Seth,’ Honour said, replacing the page she had been reading aloud on its pile, beside the other stacks of manuscript set out on the patchwork bed covers, ‘if it wasn’t for the fact you have missed so much out.’
‘What else is there?’ Seth replied, looking out from behind the computer screen. ‘I made him up! The Rich Chancellor is a fictional character.’
‘On the contrary, I know him rather well.’
‘I forget you’re the Contessa of Belle Leers, and a fictional character too,’ Seth sneered.
‘Quite so.’ Honour nodded, unperturbed. ‘My point is that he is quite as interesting a character as you —’
‘Hold on,’ Seth said, ‘you’re implying I’m a fiction in someone else’s book?’
‘Yes.’ Honour said, categorically. ‘Everyone is.’ ‘Is what?’ he demanded, angrily.
‘A fiction.’ She smiled.
‘Everyone? Prove it!’
‘Do you even know your real name?’
‘I know what it says on my birth certificate.’
‘But did you get to choose it?’
‘Obviously not,’ Seth snorted.
‘There you are.’ Honour spread her hands. ‘You got them from someone else, which goes to prove my point that the most fundamental fact about you is made up.’
Exasperated, Seth sighed, ‘So what have I missed out?’
‘It’s more what you have glossed over.’
‘Like what?’ Seth frowned.
‘Where he was before winning the loo, and how he achieved that. The malfunction in the vote-counting machine at the Oldlands Congress. His elevation to power as the chancellor …’
‘You seem to know a lot about him.’
‘No more that you do, Seth.’ She smiled, mysteriously. ‘It’s your book.’
‘So why can’t I remember?’
‘Perhaps because you’ve written so much.’ She gestured towards the stacks of manuscript on the bed covers. ‘There’s bound to be more on him here somewhere.’
‘Please remind me. Sometimes it takes me weeks to find bits and pieces I’ve written.’
‘OK,’ she sighed, ‘when I first met him he was much as you are now, largely unformed …’
Seth glowered. ‘What do you mean, “unformed?”’
‘Just that; and judging by his outward characterization, few could have guessed at what was to come.’ She smiled. ‘He was a whole lot younger then. Naïve, always asking questions, more often than not taking my answers personally.’ She chuckled. ‘Just like you, when we first met.’
‘So what has changed?’
‘Everything. In the interim he had become a media publicist. A right bastard. The typical Fux in other words, suave and urbane. The difference was unbelievable. I hired him to turn around public opinion, which had become hostile in the run-up to the trial after the House of Pleasure was closed down a second time.’
‘A second time?’
‘Yes.’ She smiled. ‘Mother Sin always said the future lay in the Oldlands. So we relocated there shortly before she died. Most of the old girls were at the bedside. Sweaty Bey, Gorgeous Georgina, Desperate Delilah, Nora the Nag …’
‘Please.’ Seth pushed out a palm. ‘Not the whole list. You mentioned a trial. Where?’
‘Isis,’ Honour said, grimly. ‘Because I was left in charge at the Châteaux de la Coquees. I got the longest sentence: four years.’ She sighed. ‘However, this is about the Rich Chancellor.’
‘Right.’ Seth nodded. ‘But first I’d like to know: how was it inside?’
‘Prison?’ Honour raised a penciled eyebrow. ‘My sentence was suspended after I married the Count of Belle Leers in the prison chapel.’ Honour beamed. ‘It was a lovely ceremony.’
‘So what happened to him?’
‘He never existed. The Count was a fiction.’
‘Of the Rich Chancellor?’
‘Yes,’ Honour nodded. ‘He’s writing a book?’
‘Of course, only he’s much more organized than you.’
‘How else do you think he has achieved so many improbable things in such a short time?’
‘But what’s that all to do with his writing?’
‘Through it he discovered the Fundamental Law of Existence.’
‘Which is?’ Seth demanded.
‘That fiction is the organizing principal of reality.’
‘I am beginning to hate him.’
‘So you should; he’s a threat to us all.’ Honour looked at him steadily, holding his gaze. ‘The next I heard of him, he was a pilot, hired by some naturalologists surveying the Garpathian Mountains. I suppose that’s when he found out about Exeon.’
‘Exeon?’ Seth said, blankly.
‘The strategic mineral essential to the nanufacture of nanokin processors.’
‘Uh, right.’ Seth nodded.
‘After they discovered the motherload, the naturalologists were all killed when their plane flew into a mountain peak.
‘But the Rich Chancellor survived?’
‘Yes; he bailed out just before the plane crashed, or so the story goes. Apparently he was taken in by a farmer who was the local representative of the Ruralist Party. I guess that was when he first had the idea of standing as a candidate in the elections.
‘But why Bogomill?’
‘Because of what only he knew lay under the mountains.’
‘Of course. I’ve mentioned that nanokin nanufacture depends on it. Whoever controls the supply can dictate terms to the richer nations. That deposit under the mountains represents at least seventy percent of the known supply in the Whole Natural.’
‘I see.’ Seth’s brow furrowed. ‘How does the loo win figure in all this?’
‘As far as I understand, that’s the one random element he didn’t plan; or maybe he was using the code of the book?’
‘We can’t discuss that now,’ she said, firmly. ‘The point is he bought the winning ticket to the biggest loo draw ever. The rest of the story everyone knows. The prize was billions. He threw a party to which all two hundred thousand Bogomill voters were invited. The celebrations went on for weeks; there were arm-wrestling contests galore and an endless supply of bison cheese strudel. After that, the election was a foregone conclusion.’
‘And the vote-rigging at the Oldlands Congress?’
‘Money can buy anything, if you have enough of it. Even after his expenses in Bogomill, he had plenty. Of course, that was before he controlled the supply of Exeon.’
‘So, what is he after now?’
‘Total Natural domination.’ She spread her hands. ‘What else?’ ‘I guess the Big Imp²¹ might have something to say about that.’
21 – The Imperator of Bigger.
This is a satirical SF novel in the tradition of Swift, with footnotes that give an alternative history of the world.
Will Lorimer is a multi-media artist and the author of a number of books.