This is the third part of a short-story draft. Part I, Part II.
In a run-down, deserted part of the palace, fit only for mice and conspirators, a general and a sub-lieutenant met to have a quiet chat.
"You are late," the general growled, obviously in a bad mood.
"I am sorry, sir," replied the sublieutenant; "the Infanta kept me too long."
"Are things in place yet?
The general growled again, this time without words. Then he said, "'Almost' is not enough."
"To be honest, sir, I'm not sure how far the Infanta can be pushed. She is a weak woman."
"Of course, she's a weak woman! Do you think The Dragon Lady would stand another strong-willed woman as Infanta? A rival for control? But it is to our advantage; it makes her pliable to our will as well as the Matriarch's. And even a weak woman can poison."
"Yes, sir. I mean that she may not have the courage to go through with it."
There was another growl. "For sixty years The Dragon Lady has kept power in her iron grasp. My father was a sublieutenant like yourself when she first seized it. It's time she toppled, and toppled in a way that put the power into our hands. I expect you to find a way to get her to do it."
Then they broke apart and went on their ways.
The Memorist did not seem put out at having had to wait so long for the Matriarch; but if he was, such feelings were not the sort of thing you expressed in her presence. She was surprised at how young he looked, and how foolish. But, she reflected, everyone had begun to look young once she had turned eighty. And foolish.
"I understand, Matriarch, that you already know something of my art," he said.
"By report only."
"That is enough; until you have experienced itself, that is enough. It will save us time for explanations. There are only certain things that you must keep in mind.
"First, there is no method of precise control. I cannot guarantee what you will experience, and I cannot guarantee that it will be pleasant. The experience follows not my guidance but the guidance of associations in your own mind.
"Second, it is important that you remain seated. You can harm yourself by walking around if you are not first brought out.
"Third, nothing can be changed. You are not sent back; you merely experience again. Trying to change anything will distort the experience and possibly break it.
"Fourth, I will carefully you observe you the entire time. If something seems to be wrong, I will bring you out. If I do, it is important that you not struggle against it; that, too, can harm.
"Do you understand?"
"Yes," said the Matriarch, sitting down in a chair beside a table on which sat a pitcher and a glass of water. "Let us proceed."
And she relaxed back into the chair as the Memorist turned on his machine and the world began to ripple away like a pond-surface.