Three weeks after Unchanging Spots
(In the year 2240)
-=Ladron’s Mansion on Sveji=-
“What you’re doing is wrong,” Tolarum warned.
“Mmhmm,” Ladron answered, as he attempted to obtain the Fourth Cube of Greelack from the Hergle Beast in the video game he was playing. This was the final scene of the seventh level and he had been trying to pass it for hours now. He tried his best to ignore Tolarum and his bladder, both of which were growing more impatient by the moment.
“Oh so you agree with me? Okay, then let’s give all these people their money back.”
“What? No! Not my money. Son of a…I’m out of rockets.” Ladron pressed the pause button in frustration, threw the controller down on the diamond encrusted coffee table, and cracked his aching knuckles, before jogging off the to the bathroom for a break.
Tolarum picked up a hideous vase and rolled it around in his hands, searching for an angle where the collection of colors on it could be considered artwork.
“Isn’t it horrible?” Ladron asked upon returning from his rest stop. “It was the most expensive thing at an auction, so I bought it.”
“You have to stop,” Tolarum said, bringing the conversation back to the topic at hand.
“Look,” Ladron started, then stopped. “Do you want to go for a drive?”
Ladron didn’t wait for an answer.. Instead he grabbed a ring of keys from a table by the front door, and walked out to the garage. Tolarum yelled for Ladron to stop but he did not. He stood on the front step, exasperated, as he saw Ladron vanish into the garage.
A minute later, a sleek blue antique roadster with a motor loud enough to wake the dead tore out of the garage, tires spinning and dirt being flung in every direction. Ladron gave Tolarum a little show of his muscle car’s power, before sliding up along side him at the front door, and lowering the convertible top.
“Put this on and get in.” Ladron tossed his friend a cap with a strange logo on it. Tolarum did as he was told, and Ladron tore out of the driveway, heading for the open road. “It’s the local gribball team’s hat. You want people around here to like you, you wear it.” Ladron explained to his friend, who was still fiddling with the cap. He put it on at last.
They rode in silence for about ten minutes, Tolarum with his arms crossed over his chest, Ladron with his hands up in his hair, driving with his knee as he futilely tried to shape his blond locks against the flow of the open air. They merged onto the highway and Ladron zipped across all three lanes into the left lane, traveling at a velocity far greater than any other the other cars on the road.
“How long do you think you can keep this up?” Tolarum asked, raising his voice over the wind to be heard.
“You are such a killjoy.” Ladron reached in and turned on the radio, which Tolarum immediately turned off.
“There’s some kind of official vehicle up there. You better slow down.” Tolarum warned.
“Relax.” Ladron sped down the road, giving a quick wave as he passed the police vehicle positioned in the median of the highway. The officer waved right back as he watched Ladron fly right on by.
“I can’t let you do this.. Not again.”
“Pffffffffffft.” Ladron scoffed. “What will you do? Go back to Trill and get help? Tell them you let me take over the whole planet? Yeah that’s going to go over well. And good luck trying to convince anyone here I’m a fraud. After all,” Ladron turned towards Tolarum and grinned. “I’m God.”
“You’re taking advantage of their trust and generosity.”
“I’m giving them exactly what they want, Tolarum. A crutch. A reason to roll out of bed and face each day in their miserable lives. They had nothing to look forward to except working until they dropped dead without ever getting ahead. Well, now they all know that everyone will be rewarded in the end. That is of course, so long as they contribute towards the greater good and spreading of the word.”
“But there is no greater good and you know it.” Tolarum shot back.
“Who cares? They’ll die happy because they believe there is one. I was like them, Tolarum. I’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Gone from bad paying job to bad paying job and half-baked scheme to downright illegal scam. You get nothing for your hard work.”
“Oh so illegal activities and scams now count as hard work. I studied for years to get to where I was, and lost it all because of a fraud of an Initiate that I recruited. How in the world did you pull the cloth over my eyes anyway?”
Tolarum tried to keep his eyes on the dashboard, rather than the road and other traffic which were rushing by at an alarming rate.
“Hey, bringing me in was your idea, not mine. Though I have to admit I trumped up my credentials a bit to make sure you picked me. If you had actually bothered checking with the University you would have seen the only records I had there were for selling alcohol to minors.”
“I did check,” Tolarum said softly, as he rubbed his temples with his forefingers. How could he have been so stupid?
“We need gas, and we just crossed the border.” Ladron said. He snatched the hat off Tolarum’s head, and fished another one out of the back seat. “Now put this one on. We are in Stars territory. These are their colors.”
“Are you kidding? Pander to the people much?”
Ladron zipped across the highway again, and off the exit ramp, cutting off several other cars in the process. Despite his rudeness, the other drives only smiled and waved at Ladron as they tried to catch the dust he kicked up in their outstretched hands. He pulled into the first fuel station he could find, turned off the engine, and took a credit card from his pocket.
“No no no! No no no!!!” A young woman with tattered clothes, missing teeth, and a hefty limp hobbled out of the station towards the pump. She stepped in front of Ladron and tapped a code into the pump. Then she grabbed the nozzle herself, and slid it into Ladron’s vehicle.
“Well, bless you my dear,” Ladron put his credit card away, and the woman handed him a crumpled monetary note.
“For the word,” She said, through her broken grin.
Tolarum watched in disgust, as Ladron tucked the bill into his pocket, then slung his arm around the woman. “Tell me my dear. When you get to Wonderland, will it be the in-ground pool, or the roundball court?”
She appeared to be lost in thought for a moment.
“Wait, who am I kidding, I’m God! How about both? No! Better yet, I’ll give you the ability to walk on water, so you can play roundball and be in the pool at the same time.”
The pump clicked off as the tank reached full. “Oh thank you Ladron, thank you!” She set the nozzle back on the pump and twisted the gas cap shut.”
“I’ll save a special place for you,” Ladron promised, before he roared off back towards the highway. “Go Stars! And remember, when life gets really tough, just repeat the universal benediction...” He yelled with his fist in the air. Once they were out of the station Tolarum started shouting as the woman they'd left behind closed her eyes and reverently recited the words Ladron had taught to the 'faithful'.
"Let it be."
"Universal benediction?!" Tolarum growled in disbelief.
"Yep. True words of wisdom." Ladron replied. "Let it be."
"Let it...let it..." Tolarum stammered in frustration. "On top of it all, you're stealing from the Beatles for your mantra?" He knew the origin of the three word phrase because of a song that Ladron had played so many times over the ship's comm system before he moved into the mansion that if he had been able to figure out how Tolarum would've erased the damn file.
"Hey, if you're going to steal, steal from the best." Ladron laughed.
“I can't believe you let her pay and took that note. That was probably all the money she had! You should have been giving her cash, not taking it!”
“Today she got to do a favor for her god, and she’s been guaranteed a place for herself and her family in Wonderland for it. She’ll sleep better tonight than she ever would have with the money.”
Ladron reached over and opened the glove box, where he had several snacks stored. He tore open a bag of chips and began eating.
“Could you keep one hand on the wheel please?” Tolarum asked.
Ladron held the bag between his legs and put a hand back on the wheel, cooperating for the first time.
“Everything changed when you gave my this guy right here.” Ladron said, as he patted his stomach abdomen where Reece was safely nestled. “Aramos’ confidence and swagger, Leacynth’s brilliance, the diplomatic and speaking skills, the lifetimes of experiences with people from every walk of life. All they needed was a dash of immorality to make them unstoppable.”
“Inspiring,” Tolarum mumbled.
“So what’s your plan? I’m not giving this up. I have the whole planet on my fingertips.”
“Truth be told I rather like the solitude of living in the ship in the woods.”
“Fantastic! I’m happy, you’re happy, they are all happy. What else do you want?” Ladron asked.
“You’re going to pay for this someday, Ladron.” Tolarum warned.
“Are you kidding? By the time any of these people figure out what happened to them, I’ll be long since dead and gone.”
Ladron dropped the pedal down even further, blasting through the traffic as he headed for home.
USS Serendipity NCC-2012
NRPG: Thank you, Reece, for allowing me to insert my desired Beatles lyric. It just seemed too perfect to pass up. ~ZL