The End of the Old Order
The prince screams at me. “How dare you accuse me of working with these monsters!” He shouts some archaic Erabian epithets and then picks up the conference table. He makes it seem like he’s flipping it over in a fit of rage. Instead, he flips it just enough so it sits upright against the wall just below the access panel to the fiber hawsers. It will be our ramp up and out.
As I instructed, the prince pushes the table against the wall farthest from The War Show studio and the armed guards. The metal panels, soldered around our consultation room, should be enough to stop most of the gunfire. But I wanted the table against the far wall just in case some gets through.
While the prince rages—turning over chairs, breaking off armrests, and hurling chair parts at me—I run to the office supply cabinet. It is tall and sturdy—about a quarter of the height of the conference table. It will serve as a footstep for getting up the ramp. I search through the drawers looking for anything sharp. I need to cut through the wall to remove the access panel and create a hole large enough for us to fit through. I eventually find a pair of flex-secateurs—mechanical scissors used for cutting digital office cords—and put them in my pocket. They’re not ideal for my task, but they’ll have to do. I also grab about 10 mobile outlets and stuff them in my other pocket.
I empty everything out of the cabinet drawers and start hurling supplies at the prince. He ducks underneath the conference table, which stands on an incline against the wall. I remove the drawers and toss them at the prince as well. I then get behind the cabinet and charge the prince while pushing the cabinet out in front of me. The prince throws supplies back at me and they bounce off the supply cabinet. When I get to the conference table, I jump out from behind the cabinet and pull out the flex-secateurs. I rush the prince brandishing my weapon and dive behind the conference table. The gods in the ceiling will think I’m attacking him.
We are hidden from the cameras. I tuck the flex-secateurs back into my pocket and we bang the table and the wall to make it seem like we are fighting. As we do, we are adjusting the table against the wall so it lines up perfectly with the access panel and is flush against the wall. We quickly go over our plan one more time. The prince listens intently. I’m surprised that a general with his decades of experience commanding men has let me lead him. I don’t think I would do the same. He is a better man than me.
He places his hand on my cheek and smiles. His hands are warm and his skin is softer than I would expect. He reminds me of my father as a young man. He looks out from our makeshift shelter under the table. “It’s time to show them what fighting men—men of honor—do to cowards who humiliate our women.”
Trina’s naked and bruised body forces its way into my head. This image is followed by Equis cutting off her thumb. Then, I see my children crying, screaming for me and Trina. I quickly push these images aside and I’m ready—as ready as one can be.
I throw myself out from under the table as if the prince pushed me. I tumble onto the ground. I slowly lift myself up, stumble, and knock the supply cabinet into the conference table so that it’s firmly pressed against it. I hop on top of the cabinet just as the prince swings at me with an armrest from a broken chair. I’m sure Equis’ cameras are filming every second of this fight and salivating over the footage. I need the gods in the ceiling focused on the drama.
I stand over the prince atop the cabinet. He swings again. This time he catches my leg, which buckles a bit. With my other leg, I kick the prince in his shoulder and he falls backwards. While he’s down, I make my move up the ramp.
The ramp is steeper than I’d like, but the conference table is just so long and we need to reach the height of the access panel. I was hoping to be able to grab the sides of the conference table and walk my way up. But it’s too steep. As the prince wobbles to his feet, I jump up and try to grab the top of the table. I come close but miss. I quickly jump again and this time my right hand manages to take hold of the top. I dig my feet into the table’s surface and push my body up. I stretch out my left hand and the tips of my fingers are able to wrap themselves around the table’s edge. My hands tighten around the edge and I pull as hard as I can. I get my chest up first, and then swing the rest of my body over. I stand up slowly and catch my breath. My feet overhang the table’s edge and my back rests against the wall. The bottom of the refraction monitor sits just above the table to my right and the access panel is waist-level above it.
The prince jumps up on the supply cabinet and reaches up for my legs. I pull the flex-secateurs out and swing them like a madman. “Come up here and I’ll cut you in two.” With each downward stab, I make sure my backswing hits the wall behind me. I am leaving large puncture wounds in the wall around the access panel. After 5 or 10 wild swings, I have sufficiently damaged the wall and the access panel falls through it. My suspicions are confirmed. I see a heavy-duty fiber hawser connected to the refraction monitor.
I can’t let the gods in the ceiling see what I’ve done to the wall behind me. I use the mobile outlets as a distraction. I reach into my pocket and pull out a handful of outlets. They’re heavier than they look. I throw them up in the air towards the cameras and they come raining down on the prince. One catches the prince on the side of his cheek and cuts him.
The prince wipes the blood from the side of his face and holds his bloodied hand up to the cameras in the ceilings. He lets out a primal scream. While he does, I open the flex-secateurs so that the sharp edges of its inside blades are exposed. While the prince waves his bloodied hands at me and shouts “get down here you coward,” I hide the open secateurs behind me and begin carving two parallel incisions in the wall—from the opening by the fiber hawser to the top of the table. I create a perforated cutout for us to break through and escape.
“Get down from there and fight like a man,” the prince shouts as he reaches up for my leg. I kick back at him.
“You’re accusing me of not being a man,” I shout back. “At least I can keep my wife from fucking around with every man she meets.” We agree beforehand that this kind of insult would help sell our story.
“I’m going to kill you, Wyles.” I tug at my left ear and the prince know what’s next. The prince grabs my leg. I trip and pretend to hit my head against the refraction monitor. I stagger and act as though I’m critically injured. The prince grabs the top edge of the table and quickly pulls himself up. I wobble and slowly take a step forward. I’m right in front of the perforated cutout in the wall. The prince and I struggle. He spins me so that my back is to him and I’m facing the wall. He gives me a strong push and I break through the wall. I reach up and grab the fiber hawser.
Just as I do, the hatch opens and a military-fitted automaton storms into the consultation room. It releases a canister of malcyon gas. At the same time, I hear gunfire from The War Show studio ricocheting off the metal plates. “Hold your breath,” I shout to the prince. I’m a few meters above the prince and moving quickly. The prince grabs hold of the fiber hawser and we both quickly climb to the rafters.
“Let’s get our wives,” I hear. I’m not sure if it’s me or the prince who says it.
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