7 Gullible Idiots and Gentlemen

They had the symbol, the means – and the means were Ted's blatant charisma and his verbal superiority. Even Eknie agreed that this man could speak anyone into eating a bullet for him.

All that they had to deal with were such mundane matters as the implications of having a taxable organization at their hands. Ted had never given much thought towards taxes. Then there was, of course, the annoying part of actually recruiting ten thousand willing souls and keeping everything in check so that Ted himself would not get shot. He knew Eknie to be unafraid of anything, but he liked life, all its filthy pleasures, the ups and downs.

Ted yawned. It was possible for him to squeeze in a few hours of sleep before going to work. He actually had a day job he did not need financially, but he felt like it was important for his sanity to pretend to be an useful member of society. It was a trait that was most unexpected for a bachelor who enjoyed staying up late and solving problems with pistols. He did not like to be idle for too long – and this was, quite possibly, part of the reason why he was so well liked. People liked handsome men who worked hard. That was a golden recipe for success.

People were very amazed by his desire to work in a simple accounting firm, but he liked the challenges and he definitely liked his improved social status.

He woke up too late. Eknie was gone – it was not good for a so called respectable woman to stay at his place for too long.

He was two hours late for work, and frankly, this was only part of the reason why he felt like quitting altogether. He did not get a significant financial bonus from behaving like a goody two-shoes. Besides, a day job kept him from being a full-time cult leader.

He sighed, washed his armpits and shaved his stubble on his well-defined chin. He had to put on some sensible clothes to meet his boss, or, rather, soon to be former boss.

He chose an unassuming dark brown suit and only light ruffles for the day, but he also decided to break conventions by mismatching brass buttons with his best pocket watch.

With yet another mighty yawn, the master of the Tobias family manor strolled out towards the busy streets of Neul.

Neul was a great place for dubious activities. Here, people knew everything anyone could possibly know about stirring revolutionary intentions and running underground brothels. Here, being an intellectual was basically synonymous with being a paw-addled degenerate, and in Neul, the more one associated with undesirables, the more desirable one became.

Ted observed the hustle, the steam-powered personal vehicles with their glossy painted sides, transporting socialites and merchants to their next meals. There was an unmistakable smell of crustaceans being fried somewhere near. It occurred to Ted that he had not been eating too well, an incident that was quite common for him, resulting in a strong, yet wiry body. It was only now that the general society recognized the beauty in slim bodies. The old, plump form was quickly getting antiquated and obsolete, as most people had enough to eat, but not many had the luxury of having healthier ways to pass time.

Ted was up to the latest fashion. He always was – he created the latest fashion. This was apparent from the way people looked at him. He wore brass mixed with silver today, and tomorrow, everyone would imitate him, with buttons and watches and those little decorations on top hats for gentlemen with expensive taste.

He walked downtown, to the Margane Accounting Office, and knocked on the door while practicing his best apologetic face. He was three hours late, thinking about quitting, and all things considered, he did not have any animosity towards his employer. Mr. Margane was a practical man who feared few things enough to keep him from making a few unethical silver ferrits. That was respectable in Ted's opinion.

"I thought you might not come, Tobias," the man greeted him.

Mr. Margane had ink all over his hands. There was a vaguely medical, sterile smell coming from the rooms, suggesting that the son of the boss was present.

Jr. Margane was a case. Ted really did not know whether that was a good or a bad thing. Junior was in his early thirties, still lived at his father's place, and he was among the three men in Neul who were registered, working nurses. Junior was also very gullible. He believed every single thing anyone more credible than a sewer rat had ever said to him, and this had resulted in him doing things like asking wildly inappropriate questions from strangers in order to find out if passing by a potentially pregnant woman had cast an accidental curse on him.

Ted thought this gullibility to be the peak of insanity. Superstition was within the realm of socially acceptable things, but if someone dared to use it to their advantage, then the accusations came like wasps towards a sweet pastry in the marketplace.

On the other hand, gullibility made for good cannon fodder.

"I am afraid I have to deliver some bad news today," Ted said and entered the building.

The smell of pure alcohol and clean bandages got stronger, but it was mixed with the delicious aroma of coffee. Mr. Margane seemed even more apologetic than Ted was trying to be.

"I have been waiting for this day, yet it still feels sad to me," Mr. Margane sighed. "You're quitting, are you not, dear Mr. Tobias?"

"I am…how did you know?"

"You never show up after three hours. You are on time, Mr. Tobias, or you do not come at all. Well…I have prepared myself for this, of course. Would you like to sit down with me and Junior? One last cup of coffee before you go? You are a busy man, Mr. Tobias…I know…"

Ted felt really good about himself despite managing to get his life tied to ten thousand souls he did not even know. He was being treated as an equal instead of the weird demigod worship he got from most people. He felt stimulated.

Junior was reading the newspaper in the break room, no doubt immersing himself in the incendiary news about the storms down south. He would be the first gullible idiot to join the cult, Ted had decided that much.

Only nine thousand, ninety and nine to go.

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