Saturday, 27 June 2009

Interviewing the general

The interview with the general was a nerve wrcking trial. The man is a puzzle, constantly threatened and challenged he seems tired of power, of conflict.

I installed myself in one of the comfortable cubicles at the window overlooking the old theatre. Loki's absinthe bar at least was relatively unchanged by the new leadership.

I looked at my watch, sipping a small absinthe, watching the condensation dribble down the outside as the crushed ice melted slowly. It was almost half past three, a quarer of an hour late. I should
expect no less. I began towonder if the general would appear at all. Just then the door opened.

Ashiko Kuroe sighed as he entered, "Dreadfully sorry I am late...I had some business to oversee..."

"Captain Kuroe. A pleasure to see you again. Or is it general now?", I had not noticed Lans Starsider until he spoke, he was nursing a bottle on the far side of the bar.

"General... Captain... does depend on the situation doesn't it?", replied the General, "General of the Obolenskidonian air Corps for the time being.". I looked up and waved to the
general. "Head of police and anti -revolutionary forces in our fair city."

"Mademoiselle Beq." "General.", I smiled up as the general bowed, "please join me"

 "To be honest I care little about the title so much as after I say 'By the  authority granted me by Obolensky' people do what I say.", he stated, completing his previous conversation and sliding into
 the booth.

"Do you know the other fellow at the table there very well?", he asked, indicating to the table where Mr. Starsider was sat. For a moment I feared that my earlier trust had been misplaced, or that we
had been observed. I pulled out my pen and a notepad, and looked around as nonchalantly as I could.

"No, sir , can't say as I do.", It was not entirely a lie. "He is not a Babbager, I know most of our residents. An Obolenskidonian I mean."

Ashiko Kuroe nodded, "Ah... a socialite as well.". I had sat watching the door deliberately, and saw Wiggy Undertone enter. I was pleased to see a familiar face at last but I could see by the set of
his frown that he was not happy, nor here for a quiet drink. It was obvious how this must look. I began the interview being sure that he overheard my opening statement.

"So..General, I am so pleased that you agreed to give me this interview. May I start by checking how you would wish to be addressed for the purposes of publication?"

Wiggy Undertone strode up to the table and nodded tersely, "Hello. Mr. Kuroe... Surprise seeing you here.. alone."

I looked over to Wiggy worried that this was about to escalate. Wiggy stood and folded his arms. The general ignored Wiggy and nodded to me, "My pleasure... and General does seem fitting...". he
turned to Wiggy, "Oh good evening... I would arrest you but I am a tad occupied. I would shoot you as well but it is a lovely carpet."

"Well, I'm glad for small favors....", replied Wigggy, nonplussed, "very small....", I could feel his stare as I scribbled notes. "I ducked in here to get away from an airship piloted by one of your
cohorts no doubt and I'm very surprised to see you here with him Beq...."

I frowned, the disgust he felt, palpable in his words. The general seemed amused by this and grinnned broadly, "Ah... and how are you liking ducking in alleyways? It's such an invigorating exercise."

"Wiggy, its been a while." I looked up meeting his gaze. "Yes." "I returned today, to find, a few changes. I am working for the Primgraph, Miss Widdershins has asked me to report on the new regime.".
Wiggy raised an eyebrow, "Ah, that's good to know! I don't want to say what I thought at first....", I shot a glare at Wiggy, I could do without being undermined but I had no way to allay his
suspicions. I returned to look at the general with a smile. Wiggy looked out of the window and turned to leave.

I tried to make remarks in defence of Wiggy, how useful he was as an engineer, how stubborn he could be. Kuroe, stared back, "It is his choice", he said, and I returned to the interview.

"So is it fair to say then that in Obolenskidonia, the new administration supports freedom to choose? You seem to tolerate the anger of certain elements."

Kuroe sighed, slumping onto the table. "I have people with guns shooting at my men...I would rather focus my attentions towards them."

"I see"

"You must forgive my ignorance in these matters, I have returned today and I am still catching up with rumours and news"

General Kuroe nodded. "Should I bring you up to speed?"

"That would be wonderful"

Kuroe's mouth curled into what might have been a smile, his cigarette holder bobbing. "Obolensky disposed of the horrible drunkard of a Mayor... and shipped in his clanks or robots or what have
you...And... of course hired myself and my fleet to oversee the dismantling of the militia and securing of the skyways. I nodded, scribbling frantically We set at once to taking the former militia
headquarters... there was resistance but superior weaponry and a well placed gatling cannon shoed the lot off...

I swallowed. "Were there many casualties?". My mind turned to those many friends as yet unseen, missing.

"I suffered a shot to the shoulder...and another was slashed badly. Oh... Oh you mean for the resistance? We didn't count anything... just dumped what we could in the canal". I sat staring at the
general for a moment, he did not show emotion just tiredness.

"So the Obolensky regime is holding fast now?"

"Obolenskidonia is holding strong."

"Are there any plans that you are able to share? This report wil be read by many of your citizens."

"Aside from the scone factory?"

"ahh yes the scone factory. Gainful employment for the children as I recall

Ashiko Kuroe nodded. "A charming endeavour...personally... I would rather see the militia heads stand trial and the rest of the lot shipped off to... oh I haven't a clue some slave labour."

"stand trial.....shipped off". I parrot as  I scribble at my notepad. "But, yes, beyond the scone factory, what plans can the doctors' favoured general share.", I smiled.

The general looked about. On the other side of the bar, Lans Starsider seemed engrossed in his endeavour to get drunk. Ashiko Kuroe cleared his throat, "Well such things... are a tad bit secret... but
I can leak it out that the aether program is well underway."

"the aether program? that sounds ambitous indeed."

"Well our proud nation is forming alliances and rivalries every day... we must do something. And if... said something happens to expand our borders... well... all the more better."

"expands our borders....", I tapped the pad with my pencil. "Quite so. May I ask why the Doctor picked the city of Bababge?"

"Opportunity presented itself? I cannot entirely speak for the man."

"I see"

"I can say why I have returned to New Babbage... or Obolenskidonia as it is now called... but the Doctor...the man's mind is as a steel trap..."

"then I put the question to you directly. We have after all met in other circumstances. What is it that brings you back here?"

The general grins, a broad, teethed grin, reaching up to his face and touching the brass prosthetic eye. "Revenge, of course... During a previous visit... I had lost my eye."

"and this revenge, do you feel it is now met, through your elevation to general, your status in the city". I glanced out the window at a movement, before snapping my attention back to the general.
Outside listening against the glass was young Jimmy.

Ashiko Kuroe reached for a cup of green liquor taking a sip shaking my head "Oh my status? I am a pawn in the grand scheme of things..."

"A well rewarded pawn, I would anticipate"

"Yes my coffers in Armada are swelling... but to be perfectly honest with each poster defiled and each scribbling on the wall I must confess... it is a tad grading..."

"Loyalty does not come cheap, the doctor must recognise this?"

"Yes... but I do take liberties in my power... Taxes for wearing mismatched socks. and the like."

I nodded, scribbling. "sartorial taxation....very good. General, I must depart, and I am sure you have important busines to be getting on with. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few

The general nodded, "Yes... I do hope this was helpful to you."

"very much so. Good day."

I left the bar, as I went Lans Starsider seemed to salute me, a half drunken
hiccup, disguising a nod.

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