Backstage: President's Office, Utan Krysaror
April 10, 301 AP.

The wind was picking up outside, but the room was warm. It was the President's office, the central office of the four-storey building facing out onto the leafy grounds below. Okarvits had postponed and postponed this "strategy" meeting with the Nystonian MPs, but that was hard when one of your own cabinet members was one of the four.

Everyone in the room was Peoples Party, and he had campaigned with all of them. He knew them, and he knew that their hearts were in the right place, but... he also knew that the consequences would be devastating on the unity of the party, and the government. The Savaj Emperor's own Chancellor called on MPs to keep the death penalty.

"President", began John Kelsey, a Nystonian MP, "we believe that there is a way of guaranteeing that we can pass the legislation to ban the death penalty." Kelsey was only forty, and looked younger than even that. "We need more Peoples party MPs, that much is clear, and a stronger lead in the Parliament."

"Yeah, sure we do. We also need a miracle cure for cancer, but I don't think we're getting either soon." Leonard Quinn, the President's right hand man, the Chief of Staff. Quinn had served Abraham Okarvits back in the 70s, when Quinn was but a man of 25. He became good friends with George, being about the same age, and coaxed the heir to the party back into political work. Quinn was part-B'yantusu, too, but looked "white" for the most part. Some accused him of lack of commitment to the Utani people, but Okarvits knew otherwise.

"Hear him out, Len", asked Pembroke, the cabinet Minister and Nystonian. Kelsey continued.

"We also all know that there is a need to decide whether the Parliament or the President face the people first." It was instantaneous. The look of recognition, as the lights went on, as they say. They all understood. Pull the Presidential election, send the Parliament first, win more seats simply because the Peoples Party was deprived by poor population figures held by the electoral office. Hold a new election, and they have a stronger control of the Parliament, and greater odds of ending the three-month stand-off with Governor Cryer over the Death Penalty.

"You can't be serious." Quinn's jaw was near the floor. It was... well, unconstitutional, tantamount to subverting the will of the people! He would not hear of it! Heated discourse followed.

No, claimed Pembroke, the poor population figures, the hamstrung Parliament, THAT was subversion of the peoples' will. The Guwimithians knew...- So, demanded Quinn, you're in on this too? You support this?

"Tell them, Jurgen, tell them why this is all wrong!" demanded Quinn. Jurgen Hoff. Attorney General. Cabinet Minister. Party Head-kicker.

"Technically", he began, "It's completely legal, and completely constitutional. Eric", the Prime Minister, also present, "simply calls a new election under the revised electoral commission rules sometime in May or June, and the issue is dead in the water. The Presidential election then must be held in January 303."

"Yes, but what Quinn wants to know...-" began Richard Parkes, another Okarvits croney and deputy Prime Minister.

"I know what he wants to know, Richard." Hoff smiled with a mixture of pain, like a man with a bullet wound to his side cracking a joke as he bleeds. "That's not my job. As Attorney General...-"

"Yes, but do you oppose this idea. Personally?" Parkes was a little more impatient this time.

Hoff paused. He knew what they wanted to hear: No, it's a bad idea. Thing was, he actually favoured it. But, he also didn't want to allow Governor Cryer any qudos for "fighting with the boys in Krysaror" and divide the country's parliament. Hoff admitted to himself, he thought more like a strategist than a compassionate human being as each day passed.

"I oppose it", he began, and an eruption of interjections and exceptions filled the room. He spoke loudly over the noise. "I oppose it because it won't work." They looked at him. Puzzled.

"Any attempt to hold an election now will be greeted with disdain by the electorate. Many pundits are expecting us to do it because they're cynical. And when we do, they'll do us in, and voters will punish us. Heavily."

"So, what?" It was Kelsey again. "Will we wait to face this issue when the first neck is on Cryer's chopping block, when the first blood of execution is spilt?"

"Technically, John", started Hoff, his eyes wide with an important salient point to be made. "We would have 65 days to block any execution, according to the Nystonian legislation, and ample time to challenge the order to execute in the courts in light of the federal Parliament's determination to repeal the law. If the case is a poor one, we could drag it through the federal courts for twelve, maybe twenty-four months."

"There you go", declared Quinn, announcing the end to the debate.

"And what about when that day comes?" asked Phillip Stanton quietly. He was the 39-year old "President's protege", sometime conscience for the Party, and already renowned for the Chiquiti "international rescue" debacle that cost him some shine. "Will we be ready then? Will the Parliament be ready to vote down the death penalty legislation? We have about thirty-five Peoples Party MPs, and another six Republicans and socialists, and maybe six of the Utani Saedaj, ah, that's forty-seven..."

"Alright, we get the point", interrupted Parkes.

"It is a good point", chimed in the Prime Minister after some pause. "Will we ever be able to win this without the Saedaj vote? I mean, let's face it, we'll get none from the opposition who would love to rub our faces in it."

"So, we hold Cryer at bay." At last, the President had spoken. Reclining in the deep leather chair, it appeared as though he was only half listening, his chair turned to partially face the grounds, with their autumn leaves starting to fall.

"President?"

"We continue to hold the threat over him, that if he presses for an execution, we'll just block it, and bluff that we have the numbers."

"President, that's not very reassuring." Quinn was now playing devil's advocate. "I mean, that's just the challenge that pompous jack-ass needs to parade through the streets, declaring that 'the feds are coming, the feds are coming'."

"We need to fight this battle on our terms, not when Cryer wants to fight it." The President was fully facing the room, now, over the enormous desk. "If war is unavoidable, then choose the place you will fight your battle, don't let your enemy choose it. Sun Tsu."

"In the meantime", he continued, "we lobby. We'll need statistics from every nation that has the death penalty, and cases where it's all gone wrong. Quinn, I want you, Jurgen and Pembroke on this. Most of all, I am going to need ammunition for when I see Areopatre. *HE* is the one who will win us this vote, because *HE* will declare in favour of repeal. Now, THERE, gentlemens, is a challenge."

They all stood or sat there as the President rose to his feet on the last sentence. Okarvits never walked away from a tough battle, and he wasn't about to walk away from this.

"And Kelsey? Don't suggest that _ever_ again. The path of political victory is littered with the corpses of men who used the system expediently, to their advantage. Jurgen is right; we would get creamed, and very, very deservedly so.

"And don't question my commitment to abolishing this thing. I'll make it a Presidential election issue before I'll allow a single person to fry in Cryer's electric chair, or die under his needle."

"Well, okay, gentlemen, let's get to it." The room exploded into activity as thirteen ministers, advisors and Peoples Party MPs leapt to their feet, thanked the President and went about their business, leaving the room clear, save the President and his right hand man.

"You know you just asked for the impossible", suggested Quinn.

"Yeah, I know", admitted the President, sweeping his arms and feet in a non-chalant manner, as he changed his direction of walk. A Presidential guardsman walked past the window on the balcony outside, oblivious to the people inside.

The President was pensive, staring out the window. "Did I ever tell you of the day my father faced down the Tsar himself?"

"No, I don't think I've ever heard of that. What happened?"

"It was the eighties. Dusko wanted to shut down the Horn of Olives Parliament. Too progressive. My father went to Guwimith Palace itself, a fifty year old provincial governor, and demanded to see the Tsar. Naturally, he was refused." Quinn listened, enraptured.

"So, he just sat there, in the official waiting room, telling the private secretary he'd wait until an opening in the Tsar's schedule opened up. He waited. Never moved. The Secretary went home and the guards changed and still my father never moved.

"So, in came the Secretary the following day and he saw this slightly bearded man still sitting in his suit waiting patiently. My father introduced himself again and asked if he could see the Tsar today, and the Secretary said "no", so my father told him that he would wait until an opening came up.

"Four days he waited, not moving. A full beard by then. They gave him water, but no food, and nor did he ask for any. He just waited. And it was only that one of the children of the Royal Princess, the Tsar's sister, asked him who he was that anyone inside got to hear that a Provincial Governor had been forced to sit for four days in the waiting room, all day and night. He saw the Tsar almost immediately."

The President stopped. "What happened then?" Quinn asked.

"Oh, apparently the Tsar hadn't heard a word of this abolition and ordered the Chancellor strike it." The moral of the story was clear to Quinn, patience and persistance. He smiled as the President stared out the window, his hands wringing behind his back.

"We'll get him, George", Quinn said, referring to the Savaj Emperor.

"Yeah, I know we will." The President then added: "I just don't look forward to the four days without food."

Quinn grinned. "Thank you, President", he said as he exited the room by the door to his adjoining office. The President stood at the window, motionless, deep in thought.


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©Mike Ham, 2001. All rights reserved. No reproduction without, at least, tacit approval. ;-)