Vlad, The Great and Powerful Vlizzard of Odds, had been taught since his cub days in the Spook School to keep his eyes peeled for useful idiots. People who have useful information and exploitable weaknesses are hard to find, but useful idiots often present themselves, desperately seeking attention, hoping to feel important by selling out their country.

Klepto was one such and when later he proved to be eminently blackmailable, well, that was just sweet. The problem was that he was not proving to be very useful.

Really how hard was it to drop a few sanctions and then cause a distraction? There’d be outrage when the sanctions first went down but all Klepto had to do was drop his pants in public or open his mouth on pretty much any subject and the eminently distractible American public would divert its gaze. That’s why there were three rings in an American circus, because the people couldn’t concentrate on just one thing for more than ten seconds. Russian circuses had just one ring and the Russian press had just one source, Vlad.

Instead all Klepto produced was distraction. The inane lying. The overt use of his public position to line his own pockets. And the bragging that drew attention to it, followed by denials followed by confessions. This guy was in so much hot water, there was no space to sneak in a sanctions-drop. Vlad’s heart went out to his old friend the Oil King, the current Secretary of State. He looked so miserable in his “job.” His real job, the one he thought he signed up for was to get sanctions lifted so he could retire. And Vlad was sure the two old pros could cobble together some excuse to drop the sanctions and let Ex/Mo OilCo start drilling on the six hundred million acres of land it had leased if only Klepto would give them five minutes of peace to do it in.

King looked so sad and confused every time Vlad saw him on TV. King had spent his life surrounded by professionals laser focused on exploiting third world countries for their natural resources and now he was surrounded by clowns who could not decide not what to do next but what they were doing right now. All King wanted was to drop the sanctions and retire to the Big Rock Candy Mountain Ex/Mo would build as a thank you present. He thought he’d be there a month ago.

The worst part was there was nothing Vlad could do. He had the P-tape ready to drop on Wikileaks on a moment’s notice. Ditto for the records of loans Klepto had outstanding to Vlad’s friends’ banks and elaborate proofs of Klepto’s money laundering operation but what good would any of that do him? Klepto was alredy trying as hard as he could to please his Vlizzardly master. He just kept fucking it up.

Luckily, Klepto was having more luck alienating the Europeans. One thing that clown could do was piss people off. Klepto seethed hate—most kiss-asses did—and he got hate in return. And he had pretty much promised not to come to the aid of the Europeans in the event of a conflict. That would set the Europeans against each other—Europe was at best a committee and no committee ever won a war. Not that Vlad could afford to fight a war. But while the committee bumbled, he would be able to pick off Lithuania without any worse repercussions than street protests in Paris, the ultimate sign of impotence, and Poland would start looking for a protector. Germany? Yeah, right.

Maybe Klepto was not such a bad clown after all. Even if he didn’t bring in the oil money he might precipitate the fall of Europe anyway. Vlad didn’t really need the money; he was already the richest man in the world. He called down to the dungeon and told them to get ready to waterboard some Pussy Riot supporters. In the meantime, he’d snack on potato chips and caviar and watch the P tape. Then go down and watch girls smother.

Author: leonardrysdyk

Leonard Rysdyk is the author of more than a dozen novels, stories, articles and poems. His work has appeared in many publications including Snow White, Blood Red, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Aboriginal Magazine and the New York Review of Science Fiction. A professor at Nassau Community College, he teaches literature (including science fiction), cultural history (including the history of science) and is an acknowledged innovator in the field of Computer Aided Instruction (CAI), a subject on which he has lectured and consulted.

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