Liber Jonae CAPUT FIVE Page 23


Quintus doesn't look too paranoid,
Said Marguerite. His smile is quite nice.

My own opinion, unverifiable,
Is that the Semiramis file was seed
To what grew and blossomed in his forebrain.
If so, all should marvel at God's approach
To realization of intended goals,
How subtle and oblique, how eccentric!
Necessity, understood by the wise,
Absorbs contingent acts water to sponge,
So that events will swell up with essence
And rise up, bare-fanged, hissing menace.
And all of us, some knowing, some not,
Work as agents of fate, working it out
No matter how aimless it all seems.
Can deft movements of young mosquito wings
Lift insects free of their larval ponds
Without a foreordained intervention?
Do unseen factors restrict flutter,
Settle subtle beats and correct the course
And draw forth slipstreams scented with blood?
What degrees of freedom govern the flight,
Its momentum certain and position not,
Or position certain and momentum not,
That vectors a virus to distant victims?
The impact of the Oracle's pronouncement
On Quintus was, in retrospect, heavy,
Heavier by far than one might expect
From a message that bore such a light weight.
The first signs were requests for certain files,
Chosen, it might've seemed, by complete whim,
Made without evident force or command.
And at first no pattern could be detected
From the varied subjects these files addressed,
Even if one were suspected, as I doubt.
But as these requests became more frequent,
They became firm orders, non-optional,
And any refusal or non-compliance
Would end first with injury, later death.
After a while some began to observe
How secretive and withdrawn he had become
As he gathered up the reins of his power.
Soon it was clear that he feared conspiracy.
He instituted a secret agency
Dedicated to uncovering plots,
And staffed it with thousands of operatives.
He richly rewarded any informant
Who came forward with whispers of treason.
He was completely out of his mind, of course,
For it had never occurred to anyone
That joining conspiracy was worth their while.
Nineveh was so fully self-absorbed
And so fatuously self-complacent
That none had quarrel with the status quo.
The king, it was universally agreed,
Was doing a fine job doing nothing.
No one else, in fact, could do better.
He could safely continue his non-efforts
As long as strength and stamina permitted.
Minor derangement could be tolerated
As long as public affairs ran smoothly
And markets kept stable and went their way
Unhindered by undue regulation.
The King, both in position and in person,
Was not an issue for Nineveh at large.
This unconcern with Quintus, however,
Presented a real problem for all those
He'd employed to hunt down sedition
And ferret out treason in city streets.
How find the plots if no plots exist?
Their very livelihoods were jeopardized
By this failure of Nineveh's citizens
To conform with their monarch's great obsession.
This apathy appalled the king's agents,
For the attitude was treasonous, really,
And an affront to the stern dedication,
To say nothing of the boatloads of cash,
That the driven king brought to his program.
Truly loyal subjects should take pity,
If not on Quintus, then on employees
And the families they feed, and plot a bit,
Perhaps utter one or two death threats,
Or even publish a few short pamphlets.
Agents soon realized that no hope
Existed to give Quintus the plots he craved
Without their own direct intervention.

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