Author: Ben Fitzgerald
Right on cue, Morgalith’s robotic guards escorted in the tax agent. The king was sitting on the other side of the throne room, and he bellowed to them as they entered: “Approach!”
The tax agent complied. He could see the king more clearly now, the mechanical townspeople assembled before him. The king was in full fantasy garb: a dark blue robe with the price tags poking out. He was smiling nervously, drumming his fingers on the arm of his throne.
“I trust your journey here was favorable?”
“Very,” the tax agent said, inwardly regretting his choice of career. “Now, if we could get down to business…”
“I’m glad,” the king said loudly. “The kingdom of Morgalith leads no traveler astray.”
“Well, as I said, I’m here for business. I sent you an email on the subject…”
The king quickly cut him off. “Because the kingdom shows its subjects great mercy. Unending, everlasting, unconditional…”
“You can’t get out of this, Mr. Smith…”
“I know no one with that name.”
“I think you know what this is about.”
“Oh, I most certainly do!” the king cried, standing up. His eyes darted desperately around the room. “This is… this is a plot. This is the work of the Nestaphinians, trying to delude us with fabricated promises of business. They will not stop until they have devoured every man, woman, and child in our kingdom. Well, Morgalith shall not allow them. We shall fight them until our dying breath. We shall raze their cities, plunder their lands. We shall never surrender, and Morgalith shall prevail!”
The robots went berserk. They started a chant– “Mor-ga-lith! Mor-ga-lith!”– and the king received it, basking in the awe of his subjects until the tax agent couldn’t stand it anymore:
The robots went silent.
“Ever since you moved off-world, there have been numerous gaps in your financial history. Off the record construction costs, unaccounted spending on sentient robots… well, we’ve been forced to conduct an audit.”
The tax agent unbuckled his briefcase, pulling out a pen and clipboard. The king’s face was blank.
“Shall we get started, Mr. Smith?”
The king opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. He sighed, resigned to his fate, and began:
“I had a bit of a mid-life crisis.”