Our name is Henry, though most people call us Harry. We have been King of England for ten years. Our style is Henry IX, by the Grace of God of the United blah blah blah and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
This coup d’etat is a dreadful business. It has caused a lot of violence and instability. The unrest, plus the insane policy of autarky, have wrecked the economy. Food is rationed. Most of the hospitals have closed. We have earnestly considered abdicating, but don’t think it would do any good. The regime wants us to stay, for what that is worth. They count us among their most eminent supporters. We are not really an expert on constitutional law, but we used to be Head of State with the consent of Parliament, before the coup. Now we don’t really understand what we are doing. The old system was supposed to prevent this kind of debacle from happening, but everything seems to have failed. It is as if the real United Kingdom has gone into a coma. If you were to ask me to describe the state of the nation as succinctly as possible, I would certainly have to consider finished among the possible responses.
They call themselves Britain for the British (BFTB). The first time they came for a formal audience with us, we tried to point out to the man in the uniform and the ridiculous armband that our realm also includes Northern Ireland. He agreed with us that Britain for the British and Northern Ireland for the Northern Irish does not trip off the tongue. But he didn’t get the point. We know we are of German descent, but we have much more of a sense of humour than that motley crew of meat-heads. Despite their ridiculous appearance, savagely-appalling manners, total lack of formal education, and perfect ignorance of statesmanship and diplomacy, they do have a kind of ruthless efficiency. They are also breathtakingly opportunistic. They don’t play by the rules. It still seems incredible that they may be on the brink of achieving what the Third Reich failed at so conspicuously.
Apart from the strikes, the riots, and the ending of the rule of law, the thing that I regret most is what has happened to cricket. Our memberships of both the Commonwealth and the International Cricket Board have been suspended. Even if for no other, then for that reason alone, I refuse to believe that this regime will last. And England had been playing pretty well recently. It’s a damned disgrace. We are not amused? We are bloody livid.
Kelvin’s behaviour has calmed down somewhat since the pantomime run came to an end. He hardly makes any bookings with Anna at the moment. He has started attending lectures and meetings which are to do with what is supposed to happen when we reach our destination. That is still about two years in the future, but he does have a lot of information to absorb and quite a number of decisions to make. An informal committee has been convened which is in the process of analysing all the data we have about Achird-gamma, and deciding where and how we are going to live. Kelvin gave Pamela a disc with some data on it, and asked her if she could make it into a globe, and so I made two, one for him and one for me. It shows the ice-caps; the two continental land-masses; the one hundred biggest islands, many of which are scarcely more than little black dots, and the largest rivers. For the want of anything else to call them, the two continents are called C-1 and C-2, the islands I-1 to I-100, and the rivers R-1 to R-12.
One of the various sub-committees that Kelvin sits on is called Claims. Those who have a preference can say which land mass they want to try to live on. This affects where they need to be when the ship dismantles itself before we land, which in turn affects where they will splash down in the planet’s ocean. The first person to make up his mind and stake his claim was Kelvin himself. He wants to go to I-11. This is believed to be in the planet’s temperate zone. It has not had a large number of applicants so far, because most people want to go somewhere which is predicted to be a bit warmer.
Wherever Kelvin goes, Horace and I will go.
With fewer visits to Anna’s establishment, and Kelvin’s generally more sedate and fully-clothed life-style, the amount of information I have been receiving about him has reduced to a mere trickle. I still have cams and microphones in his room, but mostly I direct them straight to the archive, because they are so boring. He sits and studies the gazetteer of Achird-gamma. He drinks tea. He sits and studies other stuff. He drinks beer. He sits and mopes. He occasionally goes absolutely mad and has a whisky. Riveting. He hardly ever talks to himself. Even when he masturbates, it seems more like an infantile comfort mechanism than a desire for gratification. I decided that I needed to snoop around in his cabin.
Getting in was trivial, because I have a copy of his key card, configured in such a way that, even though it lets me in, it writes nothing to the ship’s security audit. I knew he was at one of his committee-meetings, and would not be back for at least two hours. I activated the program I have inserted into the security system which enables the ship’s own cameras to recognise Kelvin’s face, in case he came back early. I considered loosening the entrance to the service duct above the bed to give me a means of escape, just in case, but decided – don’t ask me why – that this was too cautious.
The first thing I noticed was the leather-covered dressing-box from Smythson of Bond Street, which I had bought him for his twenty-sixth birthday. It had all his cuff-links in it, none of which I have seen him wearing on board the ship. On top of it was his wallet, which he doesn’t use anymore because we don’t have paper money or credit cards yet. I went through it, nonetheless. It contained a one hundred pound note, with Henry IX on one side and Winston Churchill on the other; a hundred euro note, the markings on which I don’t recall, and a shopping list written by me – by Violet. It was dated 3 October 2135 (we both agreed that every scrap of paper or electronic document we wrote would have the date on, and in most cases, the time as well). I must admit that I had not been expecting to find this.
I took out a few items of equipment I had brought with me, and turned the cabin lights off. I examined it under infra-red, bright visible light, ultraviolet and under visible again but with various coloured filters. I scanned it as quickly as I could through quite a powerful lens. It had various fingerprints on it, some Kelvin’s and others too badly smudged to recognise, but almost certainly all Kelvin’s. It had something else on it as well: several surprisingly-distinct lip-prints. Some just had traces of saliva, skin-grease and food residue; some had slight traces of lip-stick. He had been kissing a shopping-list. He had been kissing a fragment of my hand-writing.
I put the paper back inside Kelvin’s wallet. I put all his things back as I had found them. I put my lamps, lenses and filters back in my pockets, turned the ceiling lights back on, lay down on the bed, and immediately started to cry. I did not know what to do.
I put some of Kelvin’s music on, fairly quietly; got undressed, and took a shower in Kelvin’s bathroom. I used the unscented soap, and sparingly. I dried myself thoroughly and got into Kelvin’s bed, under the covers. I wanted to smell him. I lay on my front, with my face buried half in his pillow and half in his mattress, and started stroking my thighs and rubbing my clit. I was still crying. I wanted him desperately. I wanted him to hug me and squeeze me until it hurt, and I wanted him to make love to me. I thought about Horace for a moment, but I knew this would not do “him” any harm.
I was just starting the build-up to what promised to be a very powerful orgasm, when in my internal eye, I noticed a man wearing an old-fashioned gas mask and carrying a lot of box-files walking past one of the web-cams. I listened for his footsteps. He slowed down and stopped somewhere near the door, out of camera-shot. I could hear him fumbling with the boxes. I heaved myself to the edge of the bed and turned the lights off. The door opened. The man took his respirator off. It was Kelvin. The respirator had defeated the facial recognition software (I should have been looking for his gait as well – damnation).
He turned the light on. He saw Pamela, naked, in his bed, looking tearful and scared. There was steam drifting from the shower cubicle and jazz emanating softly from the speakers. There were no scattered rose petals, and no champagne, but Kelvin did not seem to mind that. He did not say anything as he tore his clothes off (Kelvin can speed-strip as if it were an Olympic sport). He got into bed next to Pamela, kissed her full on the lips, held her tightly to him, explored her body with his fingers and tongue, and fucked her.
At the beginning, all Pamela said was, ‘Oh, Kelvin.’
At the end, all Pamela said was, ‘I have to go now.’ She got just sufficiently dressed to avoid attracting attention, and went back to her cabin.
All Kelvin said throughout, as she was opening the door, was, ‘Wait.’ It was not much, but I think he meant it. He sounded even more confused than I was.
Not once did he ask what Pamela was doing in his cabin. Not once did he ask how she had got in. Available snatch instantly justifies itself to Kelvin, no matter how seemingly incongruous the circumstances. If it looks tearfully and adoringly at him while playing with its engorged and soaking-wet labia, then so much the better.
I have been crying for an hour now. This is going to make things very awkward. In spite of my delicate and distracted emotional state, I still can’t help wondering why he was wearing a respirator. I am going to have to start bugging more of the committee rooms.
Today I attended a rather tedious meeting of the Contingencies committee on the subject of what we might do if the atmosphere on Achird-gamma turns out not to support life. My response to this was, ‘Die. Now who’s for a drink?’ But the committee insisted on flogging it to death. I had a bet with one of them about who could wear a respirator for longer without it driving him mad. I’ll have to tell him that I had cause to take mine off prematurely. But I won’t tell him why – there is no way he would believe me. I am still not sure if I believe it myself.
I did wonder how she got into my cabin, but then I thought, ‘Who cares?’ There must have been some kind of malfunction, because the security log only shows my locking the door and my re-opening the door, with nothing in between. I checked all round the door-frame to see if something had got wedged in it by accident, but I found nothing.