The Ruler is sitting in the absolute silence of his office at the very top of the highest building from which he can oversee four fifths of the city. The temperature difference between the air inside and out is 25 degrees celsius and at times there is a sense that the laws of thermodynamics are being blatantly transgressed.
Observing the metropole and the coastline the Ruler wonders what is the people’s majority opinion towards him. For a few fleeting moments he can conceive that it might not be utter adulation. He is still penning his speech for the united representatives of the world. He wants it to be nothing short of perfect. Occasionally he goes into a brief slumber.
The Ruler was up late last night, talking to his grandmother who is wrinkled by more than a century of living. In a voice like shifting sand she related to her grandson the tales and myths of their great people’s past. The Ruler listened attentively. At one point he told her that he wished that she, being much wiser, could give the speech. Hearing this the old woman laughed loudly and told him not to worry, he was going to be majestic, it was in his blood. The Ruler smiled but he was unsure if she was saying this for his or for truth’s sake.
A reminder beeps on the Ruler’s cellphone alerting him that he is to meet, later today, the tiger-mouse minister to discuss the hostage situation. To call them hostages on such green pastures as they have to roam on, seems inappropriate.
The elevator’s bell tolls, the doors slides open and out comes his lovely daughter. In her hands she is carrying a little bowl of a transparent, fragrant ointment, which she holds out at a distance before her. Her irises are circular remnants of night. The Ruler and his daughter have a difficult relationship but premissed on true affection it has never entirely broken down.
– Your loafers, Dadaji.
He slips out of them, revealing his perfectly manicured feet. She kneels down beside him and then carefully begins rubbing his feet with the ointment. During the procedure the Ruler breaks out into loud peals of laughter a few times. This reminds the daughter who has been in a very bad temper the last couple of days that she cares about him after all. Then the daughter is gone again and the Ruler feels himself rising higher and higher on the cloud of equivocal solitude also known as power.
One of the secret agents is being lowered through the open vent in the ceiling by the other secret agent, grunting silently at the upper end of the vertical air duct. The being-lowered one is going “fuckfuckfuck” under his breath. His nightvision goggles are showing him that there are five cloth covered cubes instead of only one. Nowhere in the mission manual did it say “five”, in all of the 172 pages it said “the”. Fuckfuckfuck.
The both of them are vigorous handshakers. The Ruler’s beret almost falls off in the event. There are not many photographers present but the minister still thinks all the flashes are just too much extra heat. They sit down across from each other. The minister cannot remember perspiring this much since teenage’s mid-summer tennis matches. He is having a rough time staying concentrated. He goes through a mental singsong of the three most important points. Within a few minutes it’s all over and they move to a more private setting, just the two of them in a small conference room, to talk actual politics.
The minister has a great feeling of everything going perfectly. The hostages will be repatriated over the course of the week by using three cargo flights. The Ruler assures him that they have the aeronautical capacity to handle tasks of this magnitude. Then, suddenly, the Ruler’s timbre changes completely. He waves the minuscule minister to move closer to him then whispers
– You and I, Minister M, we are on the soil of my people as of this moment. You agree?
– Certainly, yes. I am very honored to be here, representing my nation’s interest. I am humbled.
– The honor is all mine, Minister. However, there is a bit of a problem. As you surely are aware, I am making a great concession to you and your nation by repatriating all of these…hostages. In fact one of our nomads might say: Why not slaughter them? What use are they here in the desert, using up all our water? They are fine specimens but…
– Yes, the 100 top most milk-producing cows of our nation. It would be a waste, a tragedy to slaughter them. And the sooner they are repatriated, the sooner your expense of water for these fine heads of cattle will be zero. We are ready to reimburse all your expenses for water or, alternatively, we could make emergency water shipments… on an enormous scale, no problem. Our nation is abundant in potable water. Please, dear Ruler, I beg you not to loose your cool now that we are so close to an agreement. It will be to the benefit of both our glorious people.
– Personally, me, I do not like beef. But I have never tasted it either so I will admit that I am somewhat… curious. Perhaps two cargo planes would be enough and you could still return as a hero. From what I understand it does take quite a heroic politician to act without the council’s consent.
– Please, dear Most Highest Ruler, please. I am begging you here. I have flown down all the way as you have pointed out, under my own authority. If I do not return all of the hostages it will be the end of my career. An irreperable loss of face, dear Ruler. If you want I can make further concessions, I mean to say, our country could supply you with more goods or a more favorable interest rate on your investments. In any case, I lay myself in the hands of your mercy dear Ruler.
– Oh now well Minister! You are a true diplomat! And you also know the customs of our nation or at least you fancy yourself to do so. The truth of our situation is: I am the one who stands to loose the most face as I am the one letting go off the hostages. So yes you are correct, I will need some significant material reciprocation to make this negotiation…. Let us say palatable.
– Dear Ruler, anything to make this deal work out for the both of our lovely nations. State your terms of settlement then and I will do my utmost to follow suit.
– Good, now you are starting to sound like a man of power like somebody who can get the job done. In return for all your hostages your nation will have to supply the mine with twenty of your best fighter jets, one hundred of your top tanks, and tenthousand standard-issue machine guns. Not to mention a .5% increase on the interest rates. These are our terms for the safe return of your compatriots. Do you agree?
– Certainly, excellent, dear Ruler, this will be no problem at all. If you have an official document to that effect I will be glad to have it read through by my legal advisors and signed at once so we can put this troublesome issue behind us. Our two nations have, I think, a bright future ahead.
– Indeed. And yes, my advisors do have such a document prepared. But as you know our culture so well you must be aware that we… that I look wearily upon an agreement that is simply just… some paper, sheets which the wind may blow in a thousand directions. You understand?
– I am afraid I do not, dear Ruler. You would like me to immediately effect a pecuniary transaction as an indemnity, so to speak? I am not quite sure what you wish to relate to me.
The ruler, remaining seated slips out of his loafers, raises his feet minimally and pensively considers his wiggling toes.