BY DAVID HENSON
Copyright is held by the author.
THE ROYAL dresser places the jewelled crown on His Majesty’s head. “Ah, the piece of resistance,” King Elliot says. “We shall now comport to our loyal court.”
The King waves aside his dresser and strides into the banquet hall, the lords and ladies parting before him. He squeezes into a large, ornate chair at the head of the room and claps his hands. “Your King wishes to see you dance. Something courtly. A minute.”
After a brief hesitation, music rises, and the nobility begins dancing a minuet. As King Elliot watches, a stream of servants brings him spit-roasted quail, rabbit and boar; blood puddings, fruits, cakes, and goblets of wine. When about to burst, the King pushes himself to his feet, belches loudly, then sits, and motions for more food and drink. “Faster, my subjects,” he says, waving a drumstick.
After much further eating, drinking, and belching, King Elliot claps his hands again. “Enough. Leave me,” he shouts. The crowd quickly bows and curtsies its way out of the hall.
The King turns to his manservant. “Bring my fair young maidens. Now!”
The manservant claps his hands, and a valet enters with five beautiful women. He parades them one at a time before the king. “Her,” the king says. “And her. And her.”
The valet leads the two lucky women back out of the hall. “Assist me,” King Elliot says, raising his arms. Servants rush to His Highness and help him out of the chair. “We shall now comport ourshelves to our Royal Shambers,” he says.
A servant under each shoulder, the king staggers out of the hall, the three chosen ones following powerlessly behind him. “Dresher,” the king bellows. “Come hither and unwrap me.”
The king awakens chilled to the bone. “So cold,” he murmurs. “Why so cold?”
“Your body isn’t quite warmed yet, Mr. Elliot,” a voice says. “Mr. Elliot, do you hear me?”
Mr. Elliot slowly opens his eyes and looks around the room. “This is not our royal chambers.” He stares at a man and a woman in white coats.
“Mr. Elliot, I’m Doctor Johnson,” the man says. “And this is Dr. Biessel, our Chief of Technology. Keep calm. You’re simply experiencing some temporary disorientation. It’s normal.”
“Where are my fair young maidens?”
“Listen to me carefully, Mr. Elliot,” Dr. Biessel says. “You were dying. Try to remember. We put your body in cryogenic suspension and streamed your consciousness to MyWorld. Do you understand? You purchased our Royalty Simulation package.”
“Our majestic hunger is afoot,” Mr. Elliot says, turning his head away from the man and woman. “I shall have a goose.”
“Mr. Elliot, a cure for your disease has been found,” Dr. Johnson says. “We just need to discuss some treatment options with you.”
“My goose. Spare not the fat.”
“Uh, he should be coming out of it by now,” Dr. Biessel says to her colleague.
Dr. Johnson studies a screen displaying the patient’s brain waves. “Remember Myrtle, Mr. Elliot? Your wife? She opted for Spousal Hibernation. She’s being warmed in the room next door. You can resume a life together in reality.”
Yes, Dear. No, Dear. Sorry, Dear.
Dr. Biessel begins turning dials on the control panel. “And you can resume a productive life in the workforce, Mr. Elliot.”
When the red light blinks, you push the button on the right. Green light, push the button on the left. Don’t mess up, Elliot.
“You’re back, Mr. Elliot. Do you understand?” Dr. Biessel wipes her brow with her sleeve.
Tensions rising with Martian colonies . . . Political squabbles paralyze Earth Council . . . Android rights backers, opponents clash . . . Levitatron malfunction snarls traffic . . .
“Guards! To arms!” Mr. Elliot shouts.
Dr. Johnson jumps back. “What’s going on, Biessel? This is your department.”
“Don’t try to tag this on me. He’s been gone a long time, one of the first according to the files. Maybe his real personality just … atrophied. Plus the psych-sim alignment protocols weren’t very refined back then. Your area, Johnson, not mine.”
“OK, OK. This isn’t getting us anywhere. If word gets out about a case like this . . . I think we should just refreeze the body and stream his mind back to MyWorld. We’ll tell his wife . . . I don’t know . . . We’ll think of something.”
“You’re probably right,” Dr. Biessel says. “But let’s give it another minute to see if he improves.”
Mr. Elliot forces back a smile, jumps from bed, and runs stark naked to the middle of the room. “Dresser!” he bellows. “Our royal robes. Now, Dresser!”