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the sleep of reason

by Michael Swanwick

with illustrations by
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes


52. [Plate 42]
Prick the Warrior

War at last! All his life, Prick had been waiting for this most ennobling of institutions to arrive.

Oh, certainly there had been a war when he was young and of draft age. But that had been an old-fashioned affair without satellite reconnaissance, AWACS, and smart bombs. A fellow could get hurt in a war like that. So he hadn't gone.

Now, however, Prick was in the saddle, and ready to ride his country to glorious, glorious victory. He'd found the perfect enemy, too. One who (by sheerest of coincidences) his father had fought and defeated before him. Which he figured proved that pretty much anybody could do it.


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The Evil One was everything that Prick was not. He despised the poor and cared only for the welfare of a small, privileged oligarchy of hereditary multimillionaires. He maintained an enormous army, though there was no need for it. He felt free to invade other nations without casus belli and in defiance of international opinion law and opinion. He possessed weapons of mass destruction. He hadn't even been democratically elected!

Prick was determined to take the bastard down.

Well... not all the way down. His father had explained to him that there were times when you needed a good enemy to boost your popularity. Besides, it was against all civilized values to target the leader of a nation you were at war with. You could slaughter armies, carpet-bomb cities, even destroy hospitals and orphanages, and as long as you didn't hurt anybody on purpose, it was all just collateral damage. But assassination? That wasn't gentlemanly.

Anyway, the chief thing was that Prick was leading his country into war. How and even whether it all ended was, by comparison, a triviality.


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This is the 52nd of 80 stories by Michael Swanwick written to accompany Francisco Goya's Los Caprichos. For a listing of the most recently available stories, go to The Sleep of Reason.

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