The Gradual Week 5
One day Sandro notices a small announcement that the 286th Battalion will be returning home, triumphant. He's never seen such a notice before, but it catches his eye because it's only 3 number away from his brother's Battalion, the 289th. A library search reveals that other such notices have been posted in the past, but none for the 289th. This sets Sandro to wondering if maybe the 289th had been reorganized. He sends an e-mail to an advertised agency to help families track down soldiers, but gets no reply.
He decides to go and greet the incoming ship with the returning 286th Battalion all the same. He takes the train to the port, but after leaving it he is intercepted by some soldiers, who bundle him brusquely into a heavy black car. The car beetles down the road and into an alley, where he is ushered through the side door of a building. They tell him he hasn't been arrested and give him a chance to fix his (now mussed) appearance, without explaining why he should. Soon his is thrust through a door into a sort of military wine and cheese party, where he finds himself introduced to a crowd by none other than the Generalissima Flauuran - chief of the ruling military junta. The generalissima calls him Glaund's greatest living composer, and offers him a commission to write a patriotic symphony for the nation. Too nonplussed to refuse, Sandro says 'yes' in spite of a number of questionable conditions. He is given a large sum in the way of a banker's draft and told that a private audience will follow.
In private audience with the generalissima, she informs him of the rules of his contract. Sandro reflects on her absolute power, and for a brief moment entertains the notion of killing her on the spot, which surprises him as a non-violent person. He hates her. His anxiety rises and he expresses a need to escape. He learns that his brother, Jacj, is now a captain in the army and is alive and well - but no more information is offered, and he is discouraged from making further inquiry. He is presented with a contract, upon which his signature in not required. He is told that his wife must appear always at his side in public. Eventually, he asks to leave.
Back in the streets, Sandro wanders for a time in the rain and snow until he finds a familiar cafe in which to compose himself. He descends into the metro system, thinking to go home, but at the last minute changes his mind and heads for the harbour.
At the wharf, a black ship is disgorging soldiers in civilian clothes. He follows them for a time before asking if they're from the 286th. The answer is yes, but he's told not to speak to the soldiers and told where family can wait for them.
Sandro returns home. He resolves to leave Glaund for good, and spends the winter putting his affairs in order. With Denn Mytrie's help, he hides his money (including the substantial amount paid to him by the government) in an anonymous offshore account on Muriseay.
- A sudden twist sees Sandro in the crosshairs of his (potentially hostile) home government. Were you surprised by this, or did you expect it?
- Does the Generalissima remind you of anyone?
- Surely, his preparations are foolproof and couldn't possibly go wrong.