Empire on Ice #25: Doing Good
[At the sporty Club Commons Imperiale, Galavar is very sharply dressed, and is grooming his jacket. He is behaving rather oddly when Josh walks in.]
Josh: What are you doing?
Galavar: You might say that I'm…popping.
Josh: No one from this century is going to get that.
Galavar: Well, maybe the next century. Everything we do nowadays gets recorded; perhaps someday it'll be the fashion for people to come home from work, gather round their holo-visors, and have a good look through the old records. I might build a whole new celebrity for myself, in death!
Josh: You've been talking with Celeste, haven't you?
Galavar: She has good ideas.
Josh: [Thumbing at Galavar's collar.] Did she tell you to wear two bowties?
Galavar: No, that's Back to the Future. It's 2015 now. I figure that if we have to wear two neckties to work, then we ought to wear two bowties to the soirée as recompense.
Josh: Ah, where are you headed tonight?
Galavar: I'm going out with Silence to Le Prétentieux Monstruosité for wine and cheese.
Josh: Sounds French.
Josh: It's a little place in Paris that I like.
Josh: Paris! Vraiment! En vérité, nous devrions tous ostensiblement parler en français à chaque fois que Paris est mentionné!
Josh: I didn't know you and Silence were an item.
Galavar: We're not, not really, but she's been killing a lot of our producers lately and I'm beginning to worry about the production schedule.
Josh: Killing them?
Galavar: Apparently she thinks they don't treat her well because she has second billing.
Galavar: I figure that with reason I might be able to convince her on the merits of an armistice.
Josh: Reason…and several hundred dollars of expensive cheeses.
Josh: Well, I'm sure Paris would love some extra merriment after recent events.
Galavar: Most assuredly.
Josh: And the two of you will definitely add a touch of class. Would you like to borrow my gigantic flying diamond that poops rainbows? It'll get you there in an elegant hurry.
Galavar: I figured I'd take my jet. I so rarely get to take it out for a spin these days. And, truth be told, it's a touch less ostentatious than your flying diamond.
Josh: You're lucky you have me around to make it "less ostentatious" that you own your own Learjet and fly it halfway across the world for wine and cheese.
Galavar: I suppose you're right. [He clasps Josh on the shoulder.] Thank you!
Josh: Don't mention it.
[Enter Silence. She's crammed her squishy figure into the boyish garb of a 1920s aviator, and is also wearing a bib with a picture of a wedge of cheese that has a French moustache and a beret.]
Silence: I'm ready to fly across the sea and dine in gay Paris!
Josh: [Patting her on the shoulder.] They'll love you there.
Galavar: [To Josh.] Would you like us to bring you anything?
Josh: Oh, nothing much really. Maybe another Legion of Honour, and a bottle of cognac from the Napoleonic era.
Galavar: I'll see what I can do.
Silence: What are you up to tonight?
Josh: Empire business. The Joshalonian goliath never rests. There's always a new crisis.
Silence: What is it this time?
Josh: My intelligence services saw an ad on the Internet from someone who says that he knows one weird trick to get rid of malicious hackers. We've been getting hacked a lot more often lately, so I'm going to look into it.
Silence: That sounds…naïve…of you?
Josh: Don't worry. If it turns out to be a scam, I do have the Imperial Army.
Silence: But deliciously heavy-handed. Crush them all!
Galavar: Yes, if nothing else, grant them no quarter.
Josh: I love you guys. Have fun in Paris!
[The two of them walk away. As they're leaving, one final exchange can be overheard.]
Silence: What are you doing?
Galavar: You might say that I'm…popping.
[Josh walks over to a luxurious set of armchairs and sofas arranged around an elegant wooden coffee table, where Afiach and Thanatos are playing chess. Afiach is losing very badly, with only her king remaining while Thanatos still has all his pieces as well as eight extra queens.]
Josh: Good evening.
Thanatos: [Sourly.] An interloper.
Afiach: [Amicably.] Oh, hello!
Josh: It's nice to see the two of you making the most of the cold winter weather here at my little club.
Afiach: I love chess.
Thanatos: I don't see why.
Josh: It's impressive that you haven't checkmated her yet.
Thanatos: She won't stop squirming. My own pieces keep getting in my way.
Josh: I think there's a message here. Maybe something about the prudent exercise of overwhelming power?
Afiach: I move…here!
Thanatos: Fine. I move here.
[Josh furrows his brow and examines the board.]
Josh: I think you've just stalemated yourself, Thanatos.
Thanatos: What?! [His attention darts furiously back to the board.]
Afiach: Yup! Stalemate. And since your Elo rating is over 2100 while mine is just 1300, I think that amounts to an overwhelming victory for me.
[Afiach puts on a huge, completely non-boastful, non-snarky smile, and thrusts out her hand for a sportsmately shake. Thanatos looks at it and sneers, and grudgingly shakes her hand.]
Afiach: Would you like to play, Josh?
Josh: Oh, I don't think I'm on your level. I'd like to preserve my 3200 Elo rating.
Afiach: I promise not to win.
Josh: Come now, Thanatos. A lesson learned is a life enriched, wouldn't you say?
Thanatos: I think I'd rather use different words.
Afiach: I don't want you to be unhappy. If you buy me dinner I'll let you keep your points.
Thanatos: How does a can of smoked wieners from the dollar store sound?
Afiach: I was thinking steak and salad! Oh, and maybe one of those margaritas with salt on the rim.
Josh: Trust me, Thanatos, you're coming out ahead. It's taking Galavar almost a thousand bucks and a trip to Paris to convince Silence not to commit homicide.
Thanatos: [Proudly.] I'd like to think I'd command a higher price.
Josh: Not if you had to eat your convictions in cheese, you wouldn't.
Josh: Go on. Take our wonderful bard out to The Ruminating J. Tell the maître d' it's with my compliments.
Thanatos: That's generous. All right, then. If I were a smiling sort of person—
Josh: But you're not; I know! Go, go. Have a dour old time.
Afiach: I'll bring you back the parsley sprig!
Josh: Thank you!
[The two of them leave. Josh ambles around the club commons, aimlessly, with a satisfied smile. He eventually stops beside a large globe of the Earth, resting upon its stand on the floor. He rests his hand upon it and strikes a pose.]
Josh: It's nice to know that I do good in the world.
[He pulls out his phone and makes a call.]
Josh: General, stand by shock troops to attack.
[He makes another call.]
Josh: Hello. I hear you know one weird trick to get rid of malicious hackers. I'm listening…
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!