Location: Capitol City, New Washington, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Chaos reigned around him.
Prime Minister – soon to be former Prime Minister – Ezekiel Mackintosh sat in the center of the chaos like the eye of a particularly destructive hurricane. He might have looked calm on the surface, but his mind was in turmoil and a bit of shock. The results were in, and his Progressive Party had lost the majority they’d held in the Council of Representatives.
He knew it was coming, he’d seen the writing on the wall, he even thought he’d accepted the outcome, but actually seeing the numbers on the holo was something else entirely. He’d held power for years. He’d been the most powerful man in the galaxy, and now he was about to fall from grace, <and all for fights I didn’t start.>
The Eagle Party had hammered that point home during the recent elections.
“The current government is a failure. They’ve lost entire fleets, hundreds of thousands of spacers and soldiers, along with entire systems to a backwater kingdom nobody had ever heard about ten years ago. Our dead demand a change in leadership. When someone doesn’t get the job done, they need to be replaced.” The voices of his opposition had called through human space.
Ezekiel countered as well as he could. He emphasized his first contact with the Hegemony and the massive trade deals he’d brokered with them. He promised stronger warships to take back those systems that were lost, and he reminded the people that the Windsor’s had tech supplied by those aliens, and that was what turned the tide against the Commonwealth vaunted fleets in those battles.
Some voters took those words to heart. The moderate independents that were undecided knew the Commonwealth had been outclassed and they were quickly leveling the playing field, but that didn’t change the fact that no one wanted a loser in command of those forces when the fighting came around again.
Ezekiel had been a politician for the majority of his life, and he understood at its foundation that the science was about understanding people’s wants and trying to meet their needs on a macro-level. He could never make everyone happy, but he needed to make enough happy that they reelected him. That took an understanding of how people thought that was tough to teach in a classroom, his knowledge came from traveling the galaxy and seeing those people up close and personal, shaking their hands, and telling them what he was going to do. He hadn’t been able to do that during this election because his responsibilities demanded he stay at the capitol.
He wanted to believe his restrictive campaigning had something to do with his loss, but he kenw people better than that. In the war-time climate that was permeating the Commonwealth, the people wanted someone from the military to take charge. The wanted a proven commander who’d won battles and taken down the enemy. As a businessman, Ezekiel was good for peacetime, but people had lost confidence on his ability to command the war machine.
“It’s almost time, sir,” Connie Price’s hand gently rested on his shoulder.
To his credit, he didn’t jump at the sudden contact, and instead let out a long sigh. The walk from his office to the floor of the Council of Representative was short, but it would be like walking a gauntlet of enemy fire through inhospitable territory.
The dread that had been building for the last few days reared its head and he felt a frog in the back of his through. He excused himself to the restroom so he could grab a glass of water, and waited for the door to seal behind him before puking into the waiting toilet.
The man that looked back at him through the mirror looked like he’d lost five pounds in the last five hours. His face was a little too pale and the bags under his eyes told anyone who looked that he’d had a rough night, or three. The Commonwealth’s system of governance was built in a way so that things that had been done could be undone. Statutes of limitations were normally attached to initiatives so that they would either end naturally if the old government lost power, or be reupped if power was retained. It was few and far between that any party had the votes necessary to make legislation semi-permanent. The supermajority that it required hadn’t been obtained in over a century, but as any veteran politician knew, there were tricks of the trade to maintain one’s legacy.
The last week, since his defeat was sealed, had been a flurry of legislation being brought to the council’s attention. He was fighting to preserve his legacies under what had initially been written into those programs. Some, he was trying to reup so they had the maximum duration before ending, and others he was trying to gain more support to keep them around at all. It was an uphill battle to say the least. The education initiative he’d fought so hard to achieve, in order to compete with corporate programs, had already been abandoned. It was good for another eighteen months, which amounted to one more school year, but who was going to enroll their children in a system that was doomed to fail.
<At least I was able to delegate responsibility to individual systems, and maintain funding for those who elect to continue to participate for the next four years.> It was the one positive he was able to wrangle out the whole fiasco, and who knew, maybe before that time was over, he’d find himself back in power again. It was a dream, but a good one.
He flushed the toilet and went to the mirror. The programming in the pseudo-glass identified discrepancies in his facial features and dispatched cosmetic nanites to remedy the imperfections. Everyone who was anyone had one of the Gold Technologies cosmetic mirrors. They ensured people were at their best no matter what situation they were walking into.
He felt the puff of the material hitting his face and the skittering of the microscopic robots across his skin. Several areas of his face grew taut, and there was some slight stinging as they went to work making his presentable. When he exited his personal bathroom, he looked like he’d had a good night sleep, a healthy breakfast, and was going off to do something enjoyable.
Connie was waiting by the large, real-wood, double door to the hallway. She gave him a once over, and flung the door open when he gave her a nod. A hundred lightning strikes flashed in front of his eyes the second the doors parted. All the major media heads were waiting for him in the hallway, and the questions they shouted felt like they could shake the foundation of the great hall they were standing in. Thankfully, the photo-protective nanites in his eyes protected him from the camera flashes, and the devices in his ear, normally for translation purposes, helped dull the onslaught to a bearable roar.
Questions of his inadequacies were hurled at him like Windsor missiles by his pundits, while those friendlier to his ideology asked what his next steps were as the de-facto opposition leaders. He had a response rehearsed, and he gave it. It gave enough of a soundbite for people to think about without really saying anything at all. He waved and smiled like the defeat hadn’t crushed his soul, and he never stopped moving. His security detail was still his for the next few minutes, and they did their jobs like professionals.
Once they reached the threshold of the council chambers the media stopped hounding him. They knew they weren’t allowed and would have to watch the upcoming spectacle from their respective booths on the outskirts. Ezekiel never broke his stride and he walked proudly to the center of the room.
Surrounding him were the terminals of the other council members. They were all full, and a number of them had a second person standing at their shoulder. It was part of the pomp and circumstance of this occasion to have an official Changing of the Council. Ezekiel got to the PM’s terminal at the center and read a few paragraphs that many PM’s had read before him, <and they probably felt just as shitty as me while still having to keep a straight face,> he thought as the words rolled effortlessly off his tongue. People could say a lot of negative things about him, but calling him a bad public speaker wasn’t one of them.
When he finished his introduction, he read an oath that everyone stood and recited. Once that was complete the defeated council members vacated their seats to the newest members. Some exchanged a few words and shook heads, while others just walked out without a glance or a word. It had been a contentious election on many planets, and politics was still a contact sport. There was a lot of bad blood in the room.
He was still watching some old friends depart, when a light on his terminal chimed. He looked at it for a second as the dread rose in his chest and threatened to overwhelm him. Instead, he took a deep breath, and hit the touchpad with his finger. “The Prime Minister acknowledges Representative Simons.”
The former admiral could have given a lengthy speech now that she had the floor, but that wasn’t the woman’s style. “I call for a vote of no confidence in the current Prime Minister, and then request a new vote for the high office be conducted.” Seconds rang out from eager, young members of Simons’ party.
“The motion is seconded and all representatives should now vote.” Ezekiel logged his own vote, but he knew the results before he hit his button. All of this had ben ironed out over a week ago, this was just the formal process to strip him of his power.
Simons was already walking toward the podium before the votes were cast. A big holo-tank above Ezekiel’s head showed the results, so when Simons arrived, he had just lost the vote of no confidence.
“The vote for the new Prime Minister will now commence.” He stepped away from the podium but only by a step. He wasn’t going to vacate the post. If no one won a majority then he would serve as the interim PM – primarily just regulating the business of the Council – until a new PM was elected. He half wished that was the outcome.
“Representative Simons has the request votes and confidence of this Council of Representatives and will now ascend to the position of Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Colonies.” Ezekiel didn’t even realize he was saying the words, but the votes were cast, and only history would eventually tell if this was good or bad for the interstellar Commonwealth.
He turned to Simons, who thankfully wasn’t smiling. Again, it wasn’t the woman’s style. “Congratulations, Deja.” He held out his hand and she shook it without hesitation. “Don’t fuck this up,” he pulled her in close so no one could read his lips. The Windsors and Hegemony are unlike anything you’ve dealt with. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.” He would never admit to any mistakes publicly, but the warning to the new PM felt appropriate.
Simons’ composure cracked slightly at his candor, but she quickly reasserted her stoic demeanor. “Thank you for those words, Ezekiel. Please take your seat.”
Unlike many today, he didn’t have to leave the chamber. He now had a front road seat to the show as the new Opposition Leader. He made that known to the galaxy by lodging an objection to her first order of business.
<And so it begins,> he sat back as other representatives started to argue and jostle for position in the new power structure. <Huh,> he thought after a second as Simons struggled to restore order. <I forgot how much fun it was to be the Opposition.>