Chapter 11: Robin
“It’s official,” Robin announced, his voice not showing any signs of excitement. “I’m in the running for guru.”
It was an announcement Robin had been waiting to make for the last two months, but only now could he actually make it. Officially, the gurus and province representatives had only just confirmed the two people running for the ninth and final guru position: Robin Libera and Charli Phelps.
“Congratulations,” Toni said in unison with Robin’s secondary advisor, Kim. For the two advisors to be in agreement on anything was a rare occasion. The strategy was for the team to have differing views for how to reach the same end. That way, brainstorming would feel like it was, quite literally, a storm; but by the end all ideas would be thought of and the best could be chosen by the politician themselves.
“Thanks,” Robin said, still lacking enthusiasm.
“Why the long face, future Guru?” Kim asked, his tone patronizing. His condescension was one of the many things that bothered Robin and Toni about him.
“It’s a lot to take in,” Robin said, brushing a hand through thick short hair. “At first it was surreal and we were going through the motions. But now I’m actually in the running. I don’t know if I’m the right one for the job.”
“If you weren’t,” Toni said, “you wouldn’t have made it this far. I think you’re just the man for the job.”
“Plus,” Kim added, “you’re allowed one more member on the advisory team. That should take some of the pressure off of your shoulders. I remember we all decided Bobbi Temple would be the best fit for the job. Would you like me to contact her?”
“I’ll send a pigeon out by the end of the day,” Kim said. He nodded to both Robin and Toni, twirled, and left the room.
“Thank you,” Robin snuck in before his secondary advisor was out of ear shot.
Toni was the only one left in the room with him. She turned to him with a grin and asked, “What’s first on the docket, future guru?”
“First on the docket,” Robin began with a sigh, “is to stop calling me future guru.”
Toni failed to hide a mischievous smile. “Fine.”
“Second, I think we need to analyze the competition. It’s the first rule of war, right…know your enemy?”
“What do you know about war?”
“Just the first rule.”
“I figured,” Toni said. “Yeah, let’s get a handle on Representative Phelps. How much do we know about her right now?”
“Besides the four years of experience she has on me?”
“Yes,” Toni said, “besides that.”
“Well,” Robin thought, opening a map of Umzali on his computer, “she’s a representative from Shamiland. So, we know she’s from one of the Polygamous Cities.”
A number of provinces were deemed the Polygamous Cities forty-four years ago. Prior to then, men and women could have multiple partners, as it increased the likelihood of conceiving a child. However, the population increased enough to the point where polygamy was no longer necessary, and it had become taboo. But there were nine out of the twenty-one officially designated provinces in the country of Umzali yet to have put laws in place about the illegality of polygamy.
“That works to our advantage,” Toni said, her eyes saccading to the top of the map to find Adini. “I heard rumors Adini and Solomon may not be part of the Polygamous Cities for long. Even if they stayed as they were, the Monogamous provinces are greater in number and population. So, it wouldn’t matter how loyal those cities are to Rep Phelps. What else does she have?”
“She has been fighting for secondary assignment therapy research and the legalization of recreational haptica for the last few years.”
“Of course she has,” Toni said. “Not only does she have liberal views, she’s following the trends, using the hot topics to her advantage. With secondary assignment research, she’s trying to steal Vera and Zephyr away from us. And of course there’s Solace, where haptica might as well be sold over the counter already.”
“True,” Robin said, “but there’s no guru from Vera, Zephyr, or Solace. So, that’s a plus.”
“Yeah, true,” Toni said, locating Zephyr and Solace in the southern peninsula. “If we take those provinces into account, it sounds like our most difficult fights will be in Utopia, Vera, Shamiland, and Chaverim. For now, let’s assume those are losses, and we’ll take whatever small number of votes we get from there. The other Polygamous Cities, we might be able to win over. Fenicia we can get over 90% of the vote. We should also have the majority of Matrix, along with Gaarden and Kinter, the Twin Provinces. If you ask me, the most important voters to get would be in Zephyr, Solace, Pandora, and Eden. Who do we know from those provinces?”
“Jorden Harlow lives in Pandora,” Robin said.
“Ew,” Toni said, shivering in disgust. “Who else?”
“We can’t avoid him Toni,” Robin said. Guru Harlow rubbed most people the wrong way. “If Charli gets him on her side it could change the entire election. Then we might as well try and find reps from Boro and Muniti to vote for us. Nobody’s lived in those provinces in the last hundred years and I don’t think anyone’s going to choose to live there now. Muniti is overrun with dogs. Dogs don’t vote, Toni.”
“I get it.”
Robin cracked a brief smile. It was his first smile in hours. “I guess I’ll take care of Guru Harlow. Why don’t you head out to Eden for a meet and greet with Guru Divalco?”
Toni’s lip twitched, as was to be expected whenever Robin mentioned Eden. “I knew you’d give me a vacation soon enough.”
“Hey,” Robin said, lifting a cautionary finger and trying not to smile. “This is going to be a business trip. And you’re not going to be there for very long. You’re already going to be gone from my side for a month just from traveling there and back. I’d like for you to come back, not abandon me for paradise. Plus, you could make a couple more stops on your way back. But Eden is a pretty amazing spot. Enjoy it while you can. Have you ever been?”
“Not since I was three years old.”
“Don’t worry, it hasn’t changed in the last three hundred years. I think you’ll have a wholly new appreciation for it though. Let’s send a pigeon so she will expect you. What’s the earliest you can leave?”
“Perfect,” Robin said. “Take the rest of the day off to start packing. I’ll see you in a month.”
“Thanks, future Gu—” Toni cut herself off. “Thanks.”
The two shared a laugh, and Toni spun to leave. Once she was out the door, Robin inspected the room for something to do. He was hardly ever alone in the office, usually talking to his advisors or reporters who wanted to put the latest story on the news the next day. Now, Robin had a few moments to himself before any reporters would turn up.
There weren’t any entertainment options in the bland office. It wasn’t all that swanky. The only special part of the office was the carpeted floor, which was rare nowadays. Most carpets had been torn up, leaving cement floors in most buildings. As Robin stared down at the floor, he considered laying down. After all, this may be the only chance he would have to do so.
Giving in to temptation, Robin first sat on the floor. After finding his most comfortable position on the carpet, he went supine.
Wow, this is more comfortable than it looks, Robin thought to himself. Or maybe he was comfortable because he hadn’t lain down in so long. Plus, this was the first time in weeks he had a quiet room to himself. It was only a few seconds before he felt himself falling asleep.
Jumping to his feet, Robin turned to see Toni in the doorway. Clearly not much time had passed. “What? Geez, Toni. You scared the shit out of me. I almost peed myself.”
Toni laughed out loud. “You were the one on the ground. You scared me. What are you, sleeping on the job?”
“No…” Robin said. Toni stared at him silently with a maternal smirk. “Yes.”
“It’s fine,” Toni said. “Sleep while you can. I just came back to grab some extra horse feed for the trip.”
“Okay,” Robin said, rising from the floor. “Do you need any help carrying it?”
“No, it’s just one bag. I can get more whenever we stop on the way.”
“Alright,” Robin said as he turned to walk in another direction.
“Where are you going?” Toni asked.
“To the bathroom,” Robin admitted.Toni’s laugh was louder this time. She shook her head. “I’ll see you in a month.”