“Fine,” said Mr Nately, sitting down. “So you shoot dissenters, rape their daughters, maim their sons—” Josh wailed weakly “—and then there’s the prisons. Oh man, the horror stories that come out of the prisons will scare anyone into line.”
“Prisons?” said the prime minister.
“Oh yeah. You wait. Build ’em and let your guards run ’em. I won’t give you a blueprint for torture—you’ll find the guards become very creative. But I would advise you to remember the three Ss—sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and sh**.”
“Sh**?” asked the prime minister.
“Oh yeah,” said Mr Nately. “Toilet privileges should be used and withheld for effect. At least once a month, each prisoner should sh** their pants. Apart from those three things, though, it’s up to you. Go nuts.”
The prime minister stroked his chin in thought. Josh made a long groaning sound, and a string of drool descended from his lower lip. Mr Nately looked at him in disgust.
“All right,” said the prime minister. “But this kind of thing would attract a lot of attention overseas. It’s not a good look.”
Mr Nately shook his head and smiled. “They won’t know half of it. You’ll control the media.” He pointed at the prime minister. “Anyone steps out of line, you f***in’ bury them!”
The prime minister nodded. “But still…”
“Sure, some of it will leak,” said Mr Nately, “but that’s when you just deny everything. And get outraged about it.”
“Suppose, say, the U.S.A. steps in.”
“Nah, I wouldn’t worry about that. They’re not in such a hurry to be heroes these days. As long as you’re not invading another country you’re pretty safe—kill as many of your own people as you like. And you can insure yourself against it, anyway. How’s your military?”
“Yeah. It doesn’t have to be big enough to beat America, but you want to have the numbers or the nukes to make the idea of invasion very f***ing unappealing.”
Josh fainted and collapsed to the floor like a big sock. The prime minister stroked his chin. “Hmm.”
“Yeah, well, if your total population is only twenty-five million,” said Mr Nately, “I’m guessing your army hasn’t got the numbers. I don’t suppose you have a secret fleet of nuclear submarines?”
The prime minister shook his head. “No.”
“Right, okay. Well, what about a drug?”
“Yeah, something America can’t do without. Cheap products, manufacturing—cash is still king. Or addictive technology, something their first-world lifestyle relies on. Anything come to mind?”
“Well, uh, we have the Great Barrier Reef.”
“A beautiful coral reef running along the Australian east coast. A tourist bonanza.”
Mr Nately shook his head.
“Well, there’s also Uluru—Ayers Rock. It’s—”
Mr Nately shook his head.
“The Sydney Harbour Bridge?”
Mr Nately shook his head. “America has no dependence on you. It isn’t scared of you. Hmm, this might not play out so well.” He laid his briefcase on the table and popped it open. “What about a scandal?”
“A scandal?” asked the prime minister.
“Yeah. It’s not as fun or as certain as genocide, but it usually works. Two months before the election you spring something big on the opposition leader. What’s his name?”
“Conroy. Phillip Conroy.”
“Conroy… Conroy… Let’s see what I can find.” Mr Nately flicked through some files. “Hmm… okay, here we go. There’s an area of weakness you could exploit. He’s married, but it seems he’s open to other offers. Especially from young men. Does that sound like something you can use?”
The prime minister nodded. “I’ve got just the man.” He stretched his leg out and nudged Josh with his foot. “Josh, wake up. I’ve got a job for you.”
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