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Once upon a time (and a very interesting time it was too) there was a young goatherd who decided to become a Bureaucrat because he was clever and ambitions. By scrimping and saving and studying very hard (using libraries), he eventually succeeded. As he had only just started, he was known as the Littlest Bureaucrat and got all the jobs nobody else wanted to do. But he worked diligently at those jobs and did quite well, until after a while he had his very own desk in the palace offices and a peg to put his cloak on. If he\’d had a cloak which he didn\’t because he wasn\’t sure he could afford one. All the bigger bureaucrats laughed at him for this and other telltale signs that he had not been to a proper school and so was not properly a member of the class of people who got to tell the peasants what to do. In fact he clearly was a peasant himself so should do what he was told and dig fields, not sit at a desk and draft memos.
The Littlest Bureacrat was not just clever and ambitious, he was also wise beyond his years. And so he kept his head down and did what he was told and laughed along when his colleagues made goat-noises or went sniff sniff next to his desk or asked if he had any goat milk for sale. The nice ones advised him to go to the bankers to borrow money to get himself a proper cloak for God\’s sake.
The Littlest Bureaucrat didn\’t trust the bankers, especially as he\’d seen the state of their money trees while helping to shovel wads of money around them to keep them up. He was sure that that getting into the clutches of the bankers except for an enormously large sum was not the way to fulfil his ambition.
So any money he got from making and selling goat cheese in his spare time, he kept to himself or used to buy things with.
But he was getting more and more worried. He watched what was happening in the kingdom through the memos coming across his desk and the news-criers in the marketplace. The only explanation he could think of for what was going on was that the King\’s Favourite Minister had taken leave of his senses. Was in fact bonkers. Gaga.
He didn\’t say anything. His colleagues and their friends the bankers all liked the Favourite Minister and thought he was jolly sound. This meant he had been to a proper school and a proper university and had lots of land and money just like they did. The Favourite Minister tried to pretend that he didn\’t and was just like the peasants really, but not even the peasants believed that.
Obviously the Littlest Bureaucrat knew better than to be a whistleblower. He knew whistle blowers were always persecuted until they committed suicide or had suicide committed for them. He was ambitious and he didn\’t fancy that.
But he had to do something. He could see that things would soon start to go very badly wrong again. He got a cousin of his to look after the goats temporarily, in exchange for their excellent milk, and he stored some excellent cheese in a cave nearby. He made himself a moneybelt and kept gold coins and a lockpick in it and wore it night and day.
Then he spent many evenings drafting a careful memo. He didn\’t send it to his boss (who only cared about the minutes of meetings being nice and tidy) nor to his boss\’s boss (one of the loudest goat-noise makers) nor to his boss\’s boss\’s boss (seldom visible). He didn\’t even send it to the Minister for Bureaucrats (a good mate of the Favourite Minister\’s).
He sent it directly to the Biggest Bureaucrat of All. Nobody had ever seen him and nobody was sure what he looked like. Many doubted his existence. But the Littlest Bureaucrat reckoned that if there was a Littlest something (him) then there had to be a Biggest of it. And there was an internal mailing address for the BB of A, in a very obscure corner of the Almanac, so he used it.
And then he sat back and waited. Not a lot happened. The peasants decided to have a march through the capital city and a few of them busted up some shops and had a sit-in. The Littlest Bureaucrat recognised the invaluable Miggs James Miggs 001 among the rioters, wearing a balaclava.
He was very nervous and quite tetchy. Goat-noise makers by his desk got only a fishy stare and an offer of a hanky, from which they concluded that he had no sense of humour. The FM had decided to destroy the Royal Libraries as well as the Royal Sick Peasants Service – only of course he called it reform – and the Littlest Bureaucrat was more and more worried about the whole situation. What if the FM really was mad? Not the drooling raving demons-have-invaded-my-brain kind of madness, but the deadly kind which looks all right at first, but ends up killing a lot of people one way or another. There had been other instances especially in hot southern kingdoms where there were lions and elephants. One of the King\’s own relatives had had a terribly unsuitable Chancellor only 80 years before and people were still talking about the War he started.
One morning the Littlest Bureaucrat was dealing with his in-tray as usual when a small bald man with small round glasses came past carrying envelopes stuffed full of more work.
\”Psst!\” said the small bald man.
\”Yes?\” said the Littlest Bureaucrat in a tone of voice he had been practising specially, \”Can I help you?\” The trick was to say it in such a threatening tone of voice that the annoying peasant wanting something went away, but not so aggressively as to get into trouble in case it was another Bureaucrat.
\”Very good,\” said the small bald man with a smile that made dimples in his cheeks. Something in his voice made the Littlest Bureaucrat look at him more carefully. He was wearing normal grey palace livery but the Littlest Bureacrat suddenly realised that it had been cut to fit him very nicely and was lined in silk, even if it was a boring grey pinstripe on the outside. The back of the Littlest Bureaucrat\’s neck prickled with fright and certainty.
\”Yes sir?\” he said quietly.
\”You sent this?\” said the bald man, opening an envelope a little so the Littlest Bureaucrat could see his own best handwriting.
\”Yes sir,\” he said, trying not to tremble.
\”Come along with me then,\” said the Biggest Bureaucrat of All (for it was he). \”Let\’s have a little chat.\”
The Littlest Bureaucrat wiped his pen, gulped hard and went with him…
(to be continued)

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