Dramocles: An Intergalactic Soap Opera

Free Dramocles: An Intergalactic Soap Opera by Robert Sheckley

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Authors: Robert Sheckley
deteriorating situation on Lekk. He was beginning to have some doubts about his newly found destiny, although he really couldn’t believe the whole thing had been a mistake. He still wanted a fine destiny, but taking over the property of his friends and relatives didn’t seem to him an appropriate way of achieving it. And he certainly didn’t want to reestablish the old Glormish Empire. That was a romantic notion, but completely unrealistic. Interplanetary empires had never been workable. And even if they could work, what would you have? A few more empty titles and a lot more paperwork.
    What was it all leading to? And that young fellow he had talked with in the Palace of Memory–had that really been himself? That wasn’t the way he remembered himself. But if not he, then who had it been? There was something decidedly strange going on, something uncanny, perhaps something sinister.
    Now it occurred to him how tenuous it all was. A visit from an old lady, a few envelopes, some recently recovered memories–on the basis of these he was risking total war.
    Caught in a sudden mood swing, he realized that the only thing to do now was to make peace at once, while it was still possible, before too much damage had been done.
    As soon as he was within his palace, Dramocles sent for John, Snint, and Adalbert. He had decided to restore their planets, withdraw his troops, apologize, and tell them he’d gone out of his mind for a while. He was rehearsing his speech when a messenger brought him the news that the kings were no longer on Glorm. They had taken to their ships as soon as Dramocles had left to visit Drusilla. There had been no orders to detain them. Only Rufus was left, faithful as always.
    “Damnation,” Dramocles said, and told the palace operator to get John on the interplanetary phone.
    Count John couldn’t be reached. Neither could Snint or Adalbert. The next Dramocles heard of them was a week later. John had returned to Crimsole, raised a force of thirty thousand men, and sent them to the aid of Snint’s beleaguered forces on Lekk. Rux’s demoralized army was suddenly caught in a two-front war and in danger of annihilation.
    Sadly at first, then with mounting fury, Dramocles sent reinforcements to Commander Rux and settled down for a long war.

 
    18
    Fighting a war was a novel experience for Dramocles, who was unused to regular work of any sort. But now his carefree, aimless existence was over. He set his alarm for eight o’clock every morning and usually arrived at the War Room by nine-thirty. He would read a computer printout of the previous night’s actions, check out the overall picture, and then turn to battlefield management.
    The War Room had one entire wall of television monitors. Each monitor presented a different sector of the battlefield. There were separate monitors for individual engagements down to the platoon level. Each screen kept a running count of casualties on both sides. Each screen had a status light as well–green for victory, yellow for unsettled, red for dangerous, black for defeat.
    Dramocles usually took personal charge of two or more red sectors. He had a natural gift for strategy, and was able to convert most of his battles into the green of victory. On good days, he felt that he could win the war on Lekk by himself, or just himself and his robot troops, if only he could be left completely undisturbed for a few days. But this was impossible. Even an uninterrupted hour was rare. A continual succession of urgent matters required the King’s attention. Glorm could no longer be ruled by the maxims of Otho the Weird.
    Nor could Dramocles detach himself from his personal life to the extent he desired. Lyrae was forever calling him at the office with suggestions about the war. For the sake of peace in the home, Dramocles had to take her seriously, or seem to. Several of his ex-wives started telephoning with their own ideas, and, of course, his older children also wanted to

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