The old man, whose progeny called him Grandfather Apple, and had been long ago christened Heran Dwisrol, looked down and over his wizened shoulder at the sensory on the holojector. He scowled.
“I knew it,” he muttered. He turned back to his ART.
Before him stood a scale effigy of a pohostinlat, constructed from straw, holding the skull of a skin eater in her left hand and gazing at it with intense furtive interest. “I forgot what I’m doing holding this skull, but I’m going to look very political and overly-intentional while doing it,” the sculpture seemed to say. Grandfather Apple applied himself to beautifying the straw with carefully-placed cubes of glass. A meticulous decision on location; another shiny.
It wasn’t the figure, or the pose, or the structure that would make it ART, though. It was the story he was busy etching into the surfaces of the cubes before attaching them. He was very into his creative process.
He didn’t cotton to his transcribing “So Grotihelden took up the burden left by her love, and wandered was revealed today as a Tufcich undead, to the shock of his fans” into one cube for several seconds. Then he began dishing out mild poisonous profanity, fixed the glass cube, and retried.
“O, to each her while he was engaged in volunteer work for the Gegaunli Reconciliation” another cube read, moments later.
“Evidence supports suppression of id and magical control measures” was followed by “Released statements to the press through various media just this hour” in short order.
Fed up with the ART of writing what he was hearing, the old man petulantly threw one of the cubes against the floor of his townhouse, and it danced across the flat surface toward the balcony overlooking the den.
“Did you have to make it so public?” he asked aloud. He stared over the balcony at the holojector on the floor below. The ghastly-clothed depiction of a pundit continued ripping strips off of his grandson’s public face.
To his surprise, the holojector cleanly cut to a profile of the very grandson being ideologically assaulted. A pleasantly featureless announcement proclaimed that the following material had been procured for the news outlet not five minutes ago.
“Do you see anyone else here trying to give these people what they actually deserve?” asked the grandson-figure. “No? That’s what I thought.”
Large brown eyes had all the soft compassion of a granite block wrapped in razor wire. The sensory recording gestured at one of those special extra-symmetrical karkshes seated behind him. It was hard to tell, but the individual looked either despondent or confused. Heran recognized the apartment; he wondered if there was a queue lining up outside the man’s door at that very moment.
The figure continued, brow creased in annoyance.
“I can’t say I’m without fault. In fact, my fault is quite significant.”
Grandfather Apple saw the way those eyes darkened, and suspected not many other people caught the shift.
“But now, I challenge you – YOU, auditors, and underlings of the Weeper, and YOU, Jon – to take the same responsibility. This wasn’t just a tragedy; this was a type nine event scenario that YOU brought about. Dodging the fact that it is your responsibility isn’t even a grift, it’s a waste.”
The tall pale human stared at the sensory’s visual pickup, then snorted.
“Greed of spirit has cost too many too much over the eternities. Charity of spirit is the only necessary remedy, and the only acceptable response.”
The man blinked several times. His mouth slid to one side, a personally painful admission breaking its chrysalis.
“I thank you, auditors and associates, who did not tell the world my secret, despite the opportunity.”
Argh. It was a good thing Heran’s extended relations didn’t hold with traditional human casting-out rituals, let alone the various Rhaagmini flavors of disowning or filial separation. Otherwise, he could name one Richard child who’d be out of the family picture before the morning.
Abruptly, the holojector cut over to a view of some other fool pundit with fake hair the height of a pubescent human.
“I just LOVE their romance,” the figure gushed, set against a picture of the aforementioned human walking down a hallway, with the same karkshesh in tow. “It’s the sort of thing that every good storyteller wants to find once in their lifetime, as an example to the-”
Grandfather Apple sniffed, affronted, and turned back to his straw pohostinlat.
“Twice-cursed pup, didn’t trust me,” he mumbled to himself. “Can’t see how much trouble he’s going to find for himself. Asked him to be up-front, but noooooooo! Eugh. Enough.”
He had to crane over his shoulder at the display once more, when another switch occurred and a particularly important fregnost received the limelight. She stood against the backdrop of the Tower of Rhaagm, and unless he was mistaken she actually looked the slightest bit disheveled. Otherwise, she was striking, confident, and effortlessly charismatic.
“Project Seven-nine-two-ky-eetee-zero-zero-five-six-six has encountered several fundamental difficulties,” said Joanna, the Great and Powerful. The Jon wore her simple woodmetal veil of office with both dignity and humility. “This period of difficulties began shortly after the project received an expedited priority. Ontological opportunities urged an accelerated pace of study. When next undertaking such obligations, we shall employ the lessons we have won this day.”
Well, that comes within a hairsbreadth of assuming some kind of complicity, one must admit.
Another glass cube received its etching: “But farces must be meant, and the just desserts of meddling are meddling and more meddling.”
Just as he was about to put it up, though, the holojector shifted from the image of the Jon to a convention of politicians. A thin caustic hiss left several of his orifices at the same time.
“Certain irregularities in the crisis originating in the office of the Weeper have come to our attention,” said a reproduction of a member of the Council of Books. Her name didn’t so much as register for Heran. He merely saw the caption identifying her as the “chief investigative prosecutor” for the current crisis.
“We have reviewed the transcripts and minutes of the administrative and executive activities – contractual or otherwise – involved with this project,” the woman continued. “We have concluded that additional review of legislation on the restrictions pertaining to aliens – and the essential core of Rhaagmini immigration, asylum, and naturalization policy – is called for. A draft of what we have decided to call the ‘Quartering of Aliens Ruling’ has been circulating the Council, receiving updates and refinements, to mitigate any mishaps involving facetary natives in the future. We will convene following a two-day recess to examine-”
Feh. They’d spend thirty two hours rolling around in a pile of mismanaged decisions. They’d-
Etching wrong again.
The straw pohostinlat got a brief hail of blank glass prisms, not a couple of them shattering. A half-mad bellowing moo nearly shook the building’s foundations.
Two minutes later, another cube went up to its place on the effigy. This time, it read, “Suck it, ART!”