“I tried to talk my brother into leaving . . . and finally admitted it wasn’t going to happen.”
Izzo eyed the little old man. “Well, your younger brother lives on Homestead—he’s a wildlife biologist—most of the time. But he’s been traveling a lot lately, helping the colonists on Lucky Thirteen, Limbo and Agony, as well as some of the foreign colonies—Tyrant and Refuge.
“He’ll be delighted to meet you, and probably haul you off and show you everything you’ve missed over the last . . . century? One!”
“I’m a hundred and forty-seven. I won’t say I’ve missed life, but I have missed the life I might have had. But I’ve lived to see the end of era, to see the One Mind stop.”
Izzo nodded. “I’ve met your alternate self, from the Whirlpool One. He’s settled on Tyrant, married and they’re expecting their second child. So perhaps you should consider that your life may be diverting back toward that life you might have had.”
“What an interesting idea. I shall have to consider it. “ The old man eyed him. “Rael tells me you’re running for President? Do you need a statistician? Or an accountant? I’ve done both for the One.”
Izzo grinned. “I’ve got some party people setting up the fundraising end of things, and yes, I do happen to need an accountant. On the other hand, I’ve got insufficient and nearly untrained people reading my mail to see what people are most concerned with. Umm, Dad always refers to you as Zipo . . .”
The ex-priest laughed. “I’d forgotten that! Excellent. I shall be your Uncle Zipo.”
Back at campaign headquarters, Izzo found the staff hard at work, and expanded once again. With a few familiar faces.
“Shouldn’t you two be in school?”
Arno grinned. “Extra credit for taking an active part in a presidential campaign. I’m analyzing your mail so you can write, or have someone write more specific responses to questions they have.”
“And I’m diagramming the ministries, to see which ones do what things, and which of them could, and possibly should, be shifted to Regional, Division, or District levels.” Ryol had an outline on her comp . . . “I started with the official chart, and now I’m going through the subministeries.”
Izzo felt a chill. I have seventeen-year-olds organizing my mail? Telling me what functions I should shift away from the Ministries?
He swallowed and told himself they were just shifting the most basic data.
Uncle Zipo leaned over Arno’s shoulder. “How are you sorting them?”
“Well, I’m keeping a double list. One is individual issues; I’m counting the frequency of each. The second is a list of linked issues, that is, many letters have multiple issues, and I’m trying to see if there are many multi-issues the frequently show up together. And if perhaps a specific plan that dealt with related topics should be considered. Umm, for instance, leading the pack, the Empire’s debt, the annual deficit, the pork added to every spending bill, government employees primo perqs, and how the Regions are going to pay for any responsibilities they take over that are currently the Empire’s job.”
Arno squirmed. “I thought maybe a list of the order things need to happen would be useful.”
“Arno . . . if you weren’t a high school kid, I’d hire you.”
He flashed a grin. “Graduating in two months. I hope I’ll be accepted at the Directorate School, and if so I can work until the middle of Shaban.”
Ryol nodded, and poked at her screen. “Surely they don’t make waste water treatment decisions at the empire level. There’s way too many variations in population density, water supply, soil types and, and . . .”
Izzo nodded. “Yeah. Drives the remote farmers crazy to have to have to sorts of systems cities need. Keep highlighting the most obvious stuff.”
A chuckle from Uncle Zipo. “Got a pair of smart ones. Is your whole staff like this?”
Izzo was saved from having to admit that no, most of them were just earnest office workers, by the arrival of Wizzy.
“Oh! You are so definitely Izzo’s uncle!” She stuck a hand out. “Princess Gews, please call me Wiz. Izzo’s note said you were an accountant? Let me show you what we have set up . . .”
Izzo looked back at Ryol’s sheets. “That exactly what I need. Dig as deeply as you can.”
A glance at Arno’s . . . “I guess I’d better start writing.”
And once a number of responses to various issues were written, the volunteers organized sending appropriate replies, and kept up with the statistics—now sorted geographically—so he knew how to shade his stump speech according to local interests. Exle and his Party staff were impressed with the items Izzo was willing to shift to the regions and boggled by how far down he thought some responsibilities should be. Uncle Zipo juggled numbers and gave him a daily synopsis. He turned his travel and speaking arrangement over to Xiat. Wiz ran the office.
So far it was working.
He had Foo running security with nine guards on rotating shifts, and more available when he travelled. Eqku—Echo—was the Agent assigned to him, poor fool got all the threatening, nasty mail and had to analyze it for actual threat potential.
And was a hit on Homestead, giving his speak in T!ectlk* with a grinning *Zolt translating it into English for the linguistically challenged. Couldn’t do it on Tall Trees or Vista, the other two Colonies with Natives, but he did a lot of small group discussions, with both natives and Colonists. Businesses. The impact that Corridors and permanent gates had had on their lives seemed at the forefront of all the groups on multiple continents. And the possibility of not having to go the Empire Council for every micro managed thing certainly appealed.
“The Council’s going to fight giving away power. It’s not just a matter of electing a Federalists. We need a strong showing in the council races—twenty percent of the council is up for reelection every year, so we need to keep working to build up representation every single year. Regional elections shouldn’t be neglected, either, because with luck and hard work, they’ll be taking over those responsibilities.”
And faster than he’d believed possible it was suddenly Rajab and time to run frantically around the globe encouraging people to vote for him as the twenty-ninth arrived and the Polls opened.
Lucky Dave sidestepped and landed on the stranger’s toes. Flinched back just a bit as he yelled, grabbed him to steady him . . . and felt the weapon under his coat.
Bloody Hell! Another one! The Fruitcake Magnet has done it again! I do not believe this.
Dave had the laser out of the man’s hand as he drew it so neatly it nearly looked like the man handed it to him.
“That’s better. You know, Insa tended to get excited and say things he didn’t actually mean, so whether you are planning to kill him, or think you will help him by getting rid of a rival . . . don’t do it. Just . . . don’t.”
As he’d come to expect, this idiot—like those before him—swung a fist, and Dave blocked and punched him, bending him over retching and gasping for breath.
Icks and Ux trotted up and grabbed him by the arms and hauled him off. A day in the local jail for psychiatric evaluation would do him a world of good.