The Political Junkie
20 Qadah 2021yp
Six weeks after the "misunderstood delivery of an invitation," the president was still trying to push the Council in the direction he desired, and not being either subtle or polite about it.
Prime Councilor Igsu suggested—publicly—that the President should get a full mental evaluation.
At least this time President Afgu attempted to get a warrant to arrest the Prime Councilor for treason. Unsuccessfully.
It was good for a solid week of snark.
Four days after everything had settled down, a coalition of Councilors petitioned the Prime Councilor to call for a Vote of No Confidence.
"So, Hot Shot analyst, I suppose you'll be pinned to the screen all day and all night?"
"Yep. The Aces are doing a running commentary and analysis through all the speeches, and hopefully celebrating a vote of no confidence." Ice grinned. She called me! "Want to come over for dinner? I order a mean pizza."
"You are such a bachelor! Annndddd now my brother is giving me the eye. Honestly Azek! I. Am. Forty. Years. Old!" Keiq's voice a little faint as she talked to her brother, but the exasperation was clear.
Ice raised his voice. "Point out to him that I've seen you shoot. I mean, I know perfectly well that any serious improprieties and inside of a week I'd be one more street crime statistic, and no doubt you'd have a watertight alibi . . ."
He could hear her brother laughing. "True! So you kids behave."
"I'll think about it!" a long pause. "That, that was not . . ." her voice suddenly clearer. Not panicked. Quite.
"I know. You're just ragging your brother." Ice let his own amusement show through. "Actually, I'm surprised you aren't pulling an all-nighter at the tower."
"Not my department, thank the One! I'll bet you miss it."
"Yeah. It feels so wrong, reporting on it from the outside." Ice bit his lip. "So what do you like on a pizza? I'll order it up for an hour from now?"
"Everything. Anything. See you in an hour."
She clicked off. Ice fairly bounced into the kitchen to double check the beer status, and started picking up the kitchen and living room. Not a big deal, his bachelor habits had never slid into slovenly, but . . . must impress, or at least not disgust, a girlfriend whose family had a live-in maid and cook.
Azek was a very successful stockbroker, and had married into Old Money. Nice old money, but generations of being the highest of High Oners . . . showed just a bit.
So his sister dating a Native Upcomer living in a borderline part of town, in an old apartment building, while working multiple part time jobs . . . yeah, I can see why even the nice big brother is a bit over protective of his little sister.
Ice shrugged off his worries and finished setting up his electronics. The Council on the big screen, a computer to record it straight through, a computer to record it, but that he could stop and replay a speech, a comp to chat with his fellow former directorate colleagues, and the computer connected to the "Aces on the Inside" site, that they'd all be posting on.
Izzo, Ajki, Xiat, Urfa, Rael. I'm definitely the lightweight of the gang. And Orde's done a couple of guest columns. It's morning for him, on Embassy, but I'll bet he's awake and glued to this "historic occasion" or "legal coup" depending on who you ask. I suspect he'll chime in as he catches other polities reactions.
Two former Presidents, two former Directors, two women Warriors.
He kicked himself mentally, then his comm chimed with the tone reserved for food deliveries.
Excellent timing. Keiq's little car turned into the parking lot as he collected the pizza. So he followed her up two flights of stairs and ushered her in.
"One! You take your Council Watch seriously."
"Yep. Not your usual spectator sport. Just a few political junkies, checking out our version of the big game." He eyed the sack on her arm.
"Wacky said that since you intended to feed me terrible things, she'd better try to balance it a bit."
"Huh. Pizza is a complete meal—bread, vegetables, meat . . . well, no fruit, but really, I can add popcorn for more veggies . . ."
He broke off at her snicker. Tried to look innocent.
"You are frighteningly good at showing exactly what you want to show."
"I must immodestly agree that it is a talent I have." He grinned, glanced at the big screen. "Not in session yet. Soon you will see my political analyst side in action."
She looked him up and down. "Everyone says one of you weirdos . . ."
". . . even does disguises."
"Oh . . . not really disguises, just enough off in appearance that it doesn't occur to anyone that to think it's . . . well . . . me."
"All you had at the salle was brown hair."
"And a bulky padded fencing jacket, obviously not new, relaxed posture, unremarkable accent. Elk and I were arguing with a couple of fellows about whether that 'magic duelist' knew how to fence at all and not one of them even looked at me."
"I spotted you right off."
Ice nodded. "You're a trained observer. Practically a cop. And you recognized me in a t-shirt and baggy pants trashing Cyborgs."
"Oh, that was just overwhelming glow. You bloody hurt to look at . . . what are you looking at?" she turned to frown at the screen.
"There's a bit of clumping, before the councilmen head for their seats. And several War Party people exchanging glares." Ice wrote that up and posted it. Spotted a cordial handshake between a Strong Federalist and a Nativist. Polite nods between them and trio of Multitude Party councilors. Kept noting relationships, as they all headed for their seats.
"At first glance it looks good for the vote to pass." He eyed Keiq. "Do you know? I have no idea of your politics."
"I hate politics. I was War Party until last winter. One look at Uqqy and I bailed for the Modern Federalists."
"Oh good. I was having second thoughts about whether I ought to let you see the inner workings, here."
"You were War Party, too!"
"Yeah. At the School I had enough baggage without adding unpopular politics to it. And working for Ajki? Of course."
"And now he's shifted, and taken the lot of us with him. How do the Modern Federalists feel about that?"
"They're utterly delighted. But then Ajki always worked well with both Orde and Izzo." Ice laid out plates and opened the pizza box. "I'm going to eat while they're getting seated. Then we—all of us ex-government employees who write for Aces on the Inside—will analyze the speeches. That is, make either snarky or approving remarks."
Keiq grabbed a slice and eyed his set up. "Two recording? One to the Aces' site, and one conference call?"
"Right. I'll record straight through, but if I need to replay something, I can do it immediately without interrupting and missing recording something."
Keiq eyed the conference call, and froze.
"Orde and Izzo? Oh! Urfa just signed in, and Rael." She sounded a little faint.
"Ajki will show up pretty quick, he's coming back to Paris. And Xiat and Qayg may or may not comment."
"She's got history, Presidential Directorate princess, analyst, then IR analyst, on top of being one of the new warriors. She's a lot more than a President's wife. And Qayg was Orde's political advisor before Urfa joined them in what has to be the most revolutionary administration . . . well, since the War Party take-over post-Granite Peak loss."
"Umm. An awful lot has happened since then, hasn't it?"
"The establishment of Embassy would have gone a lot differently under a War Party President."
"Yikes." Keiq set her comp on the table and munched pizza while reading the Aces site. "Is that you who's starting off snarky?"
"No, I was just noting relations. I suspect that's Rael. She good at snark."
"Friends in high places. Ajki ought to have warned me about just who he was sending me in to investigate."
"Eh, my circle has expanded enormously over the last six months. I mean, I trained in magic with Rael, and Martial Arts with the Black Horse for over three years now. But I hadn't actually met the rest of them until last winter."
She eyed him. "So . . . when did you tell Ajki about . . . your unofficial background?"
"Last winter, after that really interesting inauguration." He grinned at her open mouthed horror. "Two days after I finally went to Makkah."
"He trusted you!"
"And rightly so. And as soon as my background became relevant, I told him."
Keiq defocused for a bit of thought, the faint frown wrinkle across her forehead deepening. "And he didn't have you shot. Amazing."
"I suspect the circumstances . . . moderated his reaction."
"Yeah, just walking in cold a couple of years ago and telling him . . . might have been nasty."
Ice turned up the volume. "And now for the opening gavel . . . Oh ho! An immediate challenge from a former puppet protesting that so many of his legally elected fellows have not been reinstalled, having recovered from their attacks."
Keiq hunched her shoulders. "We were in deep trouble. Fifty-eight Councilors brain-chipped."
"Yeah. One! I really thought I'd gotten the Boss killed, setting a bad example for him to follow." Ice shivered. "They had their army ready to roll. I suspect that they would have stood down and let Afgu replace all his high staff with puppets before they rolled in. If Ajki hadn’t stunned the President of the Empire."
"Do you think they would have . . . I don't know. Pretended to be diplomatic at first?" Keiq bit her lip.
"I don't know. I daresay other people have asked the Bunnies that, but being on the outside . . . well, we may find out soon enough." Ice listened to a motion . . . "Not bad. Table the matter until the vote. If the margin of yea and nay is less than one hundred, the vote will not be validated until the issue is decided."
"I think we're looking at a landslide. A total avalanche in fact. But there may well have been . . . well, I know there've been backroom negotiations. The main question is, will the Isolationists and the One Firsters tend to support or oppose? It's the best opportunity to bash the War Party they've ever had. But it will strengthen the Modern Federalists. Without a well-known popular figure to run, which way will the Isolationists jump?"
"Typing while you talk?"
"That's what we decided to do for our coverage of the vote."
Keiq grinned. "Stream of consciousness writing? What if you get it totally wrong?"
"I cry in my beer . . . then put on my worst accent, with much use of the supercilious drawl and wave it off: 'Isolationists! What can I say?' Or something of that dismissive nature."
"And you still won't have a job."
"Yeah. It makes Evac 40 look pretty good."
"Why forty? They didn't even finish the first town hub before the whole Helios thing . . . was past."
Ice stepped back and found his vid cam. Started the play back and handed it to her.
"You actually went there and looked around?"
"It does have nice mountains. And that's some waterfall!" She settled down to watch, and Ice turned his attention to the Council Hall, where the first speaker was stepping up to the podium.
Rael started snarking immediately, so Ice listened for any hint of a strategy . . . oh the Drei Mächte Bündnis picked the strongest leaders as their first victims . . .
Ice jumped in to comment "Strongest leaders? I think it had something to do with not being able to get to the President or Presidential Director. Note that the only two Black Horse Guards to get brain chipped had transferred in from Fort Degalle quite recently. They were starting to infiltrate the Presidential circle through low level office workers, but the Bunnies' focus on potential presidential contenders was more a matter of availability than a mark of strength."
He posted that to Aces, and waited for the next speaker to be recognized and march up to the podium.
"You really like this end lot?" Keiq leaned over and tapped the picture. "Bottomland makes a good farm, but I think it might be flood prone."
"Yes, the land down there. But it climbs up into the trees, and the basement rock is near the surface. This flat spot up here is perfect. They dropped off the squishies, but didn't set them up, so they'll be easy to move. Just bury a water pipe up to the new home site."
"And the Tree Who Isn't has a forest at his back, an incredible view . . . and will be bored to tears inside of a few years."