“There it goes.” Ice looked around as silence fell all across the Grand Hallway of Government House, the ballrooms, and the gardens. Although an early cold front has moved the party mostly inside.
The numbers started rolling in, east to west.
The district, division and regional tallies scrolling across the center screen.
The right screen had the totals. Pacifica put Izzo in the lead, and Rumacova a close second.
“Ice?” Her voice was a little high. “What do I do if I actually win?”
Ice looked across the room at his boss. “You ask Ajki to be your Presidential Director, because he’s a very good at political maneuvering. Ox would be a damned good IR Director, leave Wpgu at XR. If they all agree, you make a victory speech naming them, and everyone’s outrage will die down.”
Then China came in heavily in favor of Agfu. Quickly followed by India with a three way split.
“But I think that may have just . . . decided the election.”
Rumacova swallowed. “A billion people voted for me. A billion!”
“That is truly amazing. No matter what else comes of this election, the power of the Multitude has just made itself clear.” Ice swallowed, as the votes kept rolling in. Paris was a three way split. The Colonies, more for Izzo than Rumacova, and little for Afgu . . .
Not enough. Oh. Shit.
The numbers for the Western Hemisphere rolled through, slower reporting as the furthest west finished their counts.
The totals remained in Afgu’s favor.
“Rumacova, not only are you in second place, you only lost by a hundred and twenty-three million. Less than two percent of the votes cast. And Izzo’s in third place 16 million behind you.” Ice bit his lip. “They’ll re-total in a few minutes, all the divisions checking that all voting precincts have reported and confirm that the numbers sent to Election Central and then here are correct.”
He wasn’t sure her deep breath wasn’t one of relief.
“Now walk out there and congratulate him.”
25 Shawwal 1420yp
Questions and No Answers
The rest of the day was . . . odd. A let down, a time to relax and deal with defeat for most of the crowd.
Elated celebration for the winners. Izzo’s politely offered tour refused.
“We’re not outsiders, Izzo. We know this place.” Agfu looked around with a hungry, possessive, pleasure, and headed for the podium.
Thanks to the voters, to his staff, promising all sorts of good things.
Naming his directors.
Ehfa Withione Torreon Azteca to be his Presidential Director.
Uqqy Withione Seine Mireau to head Internal Relations. Heads turned to look at Ajki. Poker faced and silent.
Ice breathed faintly to Rumacova. “He knew. Agfu would have talked to him if he was going to keep him.”
Ugpw Withione St. John’s East Canada to remain Director of External Relations.
Damn. A defection from the Strong Federalists. Well, certainly no one can say Afgu hogged the power for the War Party.
Rip, in full formal Black Horse Guards uniform slipped into the group. “The usual practice, at this point is for everyone to relax for a few hours, gossiping like mad, no doubt. The women usually retreat to freshen up, and maybe change into a very formal gown. As a Candidate, you’ll be expected to stay for the startup of the victory party.”
A glance across the room. “Izzo’s going to have to stay until they shut it down at midnight with fireworks. You can escape after an hour or so.”
Rumacova looked down at her gown. Floor length, flattering, but dignified, businesslike.
Noon’s advice, and exactly right.
“That’s perfect for a candidate.” Ice said. “You’re not here because you’re someone’s wife. Don’t even think about changing. But going home and collapsing for two hours or so is not a bad idea.”
Her entourage circled up, and split with a few of the hardliners staying and most leaving to “freshen up.” Ice, Dog, and the Nativist Party campaign manager, Inna *Tally, stayed.
Ice walked them out, nerves, if not settled, at least not worried about sending Rumacova off.
Inside he looked around for Ajki . . . and found himself face-to-face with the President-elect.
Agfu looked him up and down. “A Native sticking to the Natives, eh? So tell me, Ice kah Tall Trees, as an IR Analyst, how the hell do I get rid of that woman?”
“Authorize import of a fertility treatment to Tall Trees, and by the next election she’ll be married with two or three children keeping her too busy to care about politics. In fact, she might even endorse you.”
Afgu threw his head back and laughed. “One! Why would I do something so stupid!” He walked away without waiting for an answer.
A snort from behind Ice.
He turned to find Ajki and . . . the Minister of Audits.
“Pity he won’t listen.” Ajki shrugged. “Because it would probably work.”
“Pity, or a damned good thing?” The Ax eyed Ice. “You’re a bit young, but perhaps you should run. Next time.”
Ajki laughed. “Ax, let’s get out of here for a bit. Ice, call me if anything interesting happens.”
Oh . . . shit. If I’ve still got a job in three days . . . Uqqy will be my boss.
Agfu and his select group and almost directors grabbed a conference room and stayed behind closed doors for four hours.
Ice hated to turn his back on the room. Everything else, no problem. Even Ydza and Prime Councilor Isgu with their heads together didn’t jangle his nerves.
What the hell? When push comes to shove it’s just an election
At six, a formal dinner for all twenty of the early candidates and their spouses, and enough of the top luminaries to fill the spaces.
Ice, watching the ecstatic grins on the faces of the Independent candidates’ wives, ponder anew the rumors that some people ran to get into this party, at that table.
He wandered off to graze at the buffets scattered around and stuck strictly to non-alcoholic beverages.
Getting a good look at every man—and two women—who got on his nerves. Getting their names.
At eight, the band that had been playing in the background gave way to a larger group as the formal dinner finished and the focus of the night returned.
Agfu regathered his company, looking smug and satisfied, as the first dance number started.
Izzo stepped out with his wife, alone, as was traditional for the first measure, then other couples joined them.
Ice took Rumacova out, surrendered her to Izzo, for the second dance. Then danced with Madam Jowp “If you call me that again I’ll deck you,” Poppy, who was Ajki’s wife. Who said it with a smile and “So you’re Ice, are you?”
“Yes, Madam Poppy.”
She just smiled a little wryly. “Ajki seems to think you’re ahead of him on their list of people to kill.”
“Yes . . . but hopefully all they’ll actually kill are some careers.”
Then he danced with Zizi and Vaul, and spotting Rumacova frowning at Agfu as he shoved her around the dance floor, Ice slipped in to grab her for the next dance to glares from Uqqy and Ehfa.
“Did Vaul get you one of those ridiculous dance card things?” Ice swooped her to the edge of the dance floor and stepped off and walked her to a table of iced non-alcoholic drinks. “For this, the first ten dances get left blank, as who knows who’s going to win, right?”
“Right.” She wrinkled her nose. “I had not realize how utterly disgusting Agfu is.” She glanced at the woman stepping around Ice.
Xiat was nodding agreement. “He was very cold and calculating. Not that Izzo doesn’t do a fair amount of cold calculations, but he doesn’t feel like a poisonous snake.”
Rumacova nodded. “I was thinking shark, but I couldn’t tell if he was hungry or aroused.”
“Oh yes.” Xiat looked around. “Three hours and maybe I can escape. I think I’ll grab the kids and head for Black Point. Someone else can do the packing.”
Another woman joined. Raod, Rael’s sister and the wife of the Presidential Director. “Me too. The kids are going to really miss everyone at Versalle.”
Ice ran a quick calculation. Izzo’s twins are twelvish, Ox’s boy is fifteen, and the girl eighteen? Something like that. Well, there’s no time that’s “right” to move, and I’ll bet they’re all upset, all of a sudden.
Xiat nodded. “At least you’re going home. My kids think Black Point is a moderately nice place for an occasional vacation.”
Rumacova looked around, “Speaking of home . . . I think I’ll pack up and head home tomorrow myself. In fact, haven’t I done my duty here?”
The other women nodded. “Run for it, lucky woman. We have to smile nod and dance till midnight.”
Ice walked her out to a limo, Zizi and Dog joined her.
Back in the Grand Hallway, Ice looked across at Agfu’s group and shuddered. He spotted Ajki and started working his way around the room.
This is a bad idea. I must be insane to even think it.
But I have to know where I stand.
I have to.
He swallowed bile and caught Ajki’s eye.
Kept his voice low. “Is there any reason I shouldn’t go to Makkah and ask them if this is their goal?”
Ajki looked back toward Agfu. “No . . . why don’t you leave right now. I’d kind of like to know myself.”