I had my former friend interred on the island. I didn’t know if he had any other family left, but I was giving him a burial. A proper one, despite the hints dropped by Old Man Hoodless. I don’t normally care so much about that thing, but the remains of Good Doctor’s dead, deceased corpse deserve as much respect as any worm fodder I’ve created.
I didn’t go myself. Sent some guys while I stayed behind to answer a few questions. The other signatory nations of the Treaty of Pyongyang were nice enough to allow me to import a few giant monitors for communications, in part because they wanted to interrogate me about my field trip. As for me, I had some fun giving them the same kind of response over and over again. “I don’t know what you mean. I didn’t leave the island. No, I don’t know why people claim they saw me leave. Did I allegedly do anything interesting?”
Technically speaking, all I have to do for an alibi is create some nonfunctional copies of my armor. Costumes and masks still hold power. And when the helmet and masks are pulled away, there are always bald-faced lies.
I met with the legislature, which is about ready to finish their work and create something they’re calling the Directorate. There were lots of bows when I showed up among the tents, at which point I asked if they were ever going to get around to having their own building. That’s when someone with a fancy hat walked up and I noticed a lot of these guys had adopted various ways of standing out. There was the fellow with the sash who wished me well last time, someone else with epaulets, this guy with a hat, and someone else with the kind of belt you don’t get outside of a steel cage match.
“My Emperor, we would be delighted to create a capital building,” said the man in the hat. Think top hat, but with gold sprinkles all over it and a sash of deep red. “As the Minister of Finance, it is my job to approve the location and funds. When I suggested a site for the new capital building, my colleagues insisted I meet with you to discuss it.”
I shrugged. “Sure, lay it on me.”
He held his hands out toward the ground we stood on. “Here.”
“A building for the Assembly or Directorate or whoever to meet right where the old Imperial Palace once stood? It has continuity. Hey, how about this, you build me a throne room and some place to hold diplomat balls, and it’ll work out pretty well.”
He bowed and went right to handling my request. Sadly, it’s only in English where there’d be confusion over whether I asked for a special bedroom for international relations. When the Minister of Finance told the rest of the bunch, I got a short cheer. I held up my hands to stop them then and asked, “I aim to bury The Good Doctor. He may have been an asshole who tried to murder me and my daughter, but he was my friend once upon a time. Is there any sort of place for honored dead?”
The Finance Minister, being closest, decided to take this question. “The previous Emperor arranged for his best servants to be buried at Champion Hill.”
I’m trying to get by bearings since I’m stuck here now. Trying to get oriented. So the city is on the east side of the island, with the palace complex on the west side of the city. Docks are on the eastern side of the city, with a military base to the north. Just to the northwest of the city, on an atoll off the coast, is the nuclear power plant. Champion Hill is north of the palace grounds, in the middle of a business section. I recognize some of those companies. Ricca must have had some pretty good tax laws.
Champion Hill wasn’t big on ground space. Lots of mausoleums and tombs aboveground, with statues and monuments. The staff, an unusual bunch of them, all rushed up to me. A walking rush, but then I am the Emperor. Most were dressed in simpler work clothes, like jumpsuits and t-shirts, but the one in a long-sleeve shirt jogged to get ahead of the others. “Lord Emperor!” he said. “What a surprise!”
The whole bunch bowed at once. I grabbed the lead guy’s head and gave it a shake like it was a hand. “Nice to meet y’all. At ease.”
They stood back up, the man in charge fixing his hair. “What brings You Excellency to us?”
“I’m looking to dump a body in a place no one will find it. I wanted to put him in a nice mausoleum around here. What space do you have available?”
“As the head groundskeeper, I would be more than happy to show you,” that one said. He took me straight away to one particular building. I noticed the others all went about their business, which included a few of them heading into other funerary buildings. “The previous Emperor had many heroes of the Empire whose continued presence would be problematic. They would be placed in here.”
He swung the heavy stone door open. The interior smelled of blood, but was pleasantly cool for this time of year. I saw decaying corpses scattered all over, many in multiple pieces. Deep gauge marks were all over the wall, many of them being three or four parallel lines. I turned to the groundskeeper. I don’t know if any were interred at all. “They weren’t necessarily dead when you put them in here, were they?”
“Such was the will of the Emperor.”
I looked at him, then pushed the door closed. “Ok, we’re going to retire that one. Wait, I might have one more job for it. But first, where else do you have?”
He didn’t look me in the eye as he answered. “The others are full.”
“Really?” I asked. I walked over to another mausoleum I’d seen staff enter and pulled that door open. I found a pair of junior groundskeepers within, working at a lab setup on folding tables. They looked up, surprised.
“What’s all this then?” I asked, stepping in and examining the little chemistry lab they had set up in here. I recognized many of the chemicals and the processes they seemed to be involved in. “Well this just won’t do.” I pointed to one particular beaker and shook my head. “You need more heat, and you need more ventilation. I’m surprised you haven’t blown yourselves up.”
One of the drug cookers mumbled the word, “Plot four,” under his breath after I said that. I clapped my hands together, causing all the others to jump a little. “Ok, first off, we’re going to get y’all set up in a better spot than this. Better equipment, a better building, and no risk of us arresting you. Trade-off is, I get a cut. And clear out some of these things so I can stick some dead people in here. You got anything cleaner than this one?”
They showed me to another they were using to grow some very lovely and aromatic plants. The head groundskeeper said, “We call these ‘Dead Man’s Party’. There is nothing stronger on the market.”
“I’ve seen what some of the supers smoke,” I replied. Everybody always brags about their marijuana.
He stepped back to the rear and pulled open a vault. Inside was a smaller variety that looked all dark and dead. “This was an experiment by one of my men that we kept, but never could sell. When Chaow first tried it for himself, we thought he died. He awoke from his coma three days, but we knew it would never sell.”
“I can see why. We’ll see what we can do for the hardier superhumans out there, provided you don’t need to grow them in here to get the quality?” I looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
He bowed to me. “We will have them cleaned out within two hours per your wishes, my Emperor. We will then worry about maintaining quality.”
So with all that set up, I was able to have a nice, private funeral for Good Doctor. I didn’t have time to invite my other friend, Mix N’Max, who had also worked with myself and Doc, but I did send him a bouquet as consolation. Not flowers, though. It’s the groundskeepers’ fault they left one of their bushes behind, after all.
Despite all that closure, I think things are coming together. The power’s back on. Food’s getting out there. We now have a burgeoning drug industry. Foreign businesses are coming back. And, we had a hell of an announcement of the new constitution. I gathered the Assembly in front of a building, the old Imperial Department of Public Good. Well in front of it. We wanted it to be a backdrop, not right on us, for reasons that’ll become apparent, along with the presence of a see-through splash shield. They presented the Constitution and announced elections. A legislature that then elects a smaller group of Directors overseeing most of that branch, with executive power ultimately resting in the Emperor, who gets a veto and all that mess. They were a bit dry, to be honest. I started to doze, but nobody noticed since I had my armor on.
After they were done came my big speech, borrowing heavily from stuff folks like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, Eugene V. Debs, and just a hint of Paradise Lost. But I’m not going to sit here, post an entire speech, and expect everyone to think it’s awesome because a bunch of people clapped for me in a country where I’m allowed to have them all killed. I even got applause for the section about opening up the country to men and women, supers and norms, of all countries and creeds who seek to escape past mistakes and misunderstandings. A sort of neutral ground, where all can be treated equally in my eyes. I had to try really hard not to put up my hand and stage whisper that we’re really lenient on criminals funneling drugs, money, and other goods through the place.
The event concluded with me bringing out the staff of the Public Good people and all the little orphans they had been taking care of. They stood there. And watched as I sent a signal that set off detonation charges to implode the Department and make it collapse in on itself. A little bit of debris reached us to be stopped by the shield.
The first to react were all the children, my Qiang included, who cheered like crazy. The head of the Department rushed over to my side. “Emperor! What are you doing?”
“I’m putting a stop to what you do to and with the children.” I tried to shoot him a glare through my helmet. “You are out of a job.”
“But I have served the Empire loyally for twenty one years! I am a master at molding these children,” he pleaded.
I smiled under my helmet. “You know what? For your service, I have a reward with you. For your service, you shall be interred at Champion Hill.”
“I… thank you, my Emperor,” he said, reluctantly.
“You’re very welcome,” I responded. Meanwhile, off to the side, the groundskeepers all got the signal. They walked up to escort this fellow away from me and to his eternal reward.