A RIGHTEOUS OCCASION.
Thousands of feet below the Capitol Cathedral and on the ground floor of the adjacent South Tower laid the cavernous Holy Auditorium. Inside the massive amphitheater on the night of 11 September, a portentous mood filled the air as hundreds of media personnel, security guards, Divine Cloaked Forces officers, and the Supreme Assembly of Administration sat in their bronze seats awaiting the tentative 2100hrs arrival of the Ultimate Minister.
No one there knew why they gathered; they only understood how strange it was to be in the Auditorium on Remembrance Day. Under normal circumstances, the government used the Holy Auditorium for two reasons: the Ultimate Minister’s annual Divine Update speech, or for gatherings of world heads of state for economic summits. But as Jack Minor remarked to George Drummond as he and his SAA colleagues sat in the front row, if the Ultimate Minister hastily arranged a speech in the Holy Auditorium on a sacred holiday, he had something important to say.
However, amongst the rest of the gathered, the impending speech was not the chief topic of conversation. Instead, a large contingent of reporters and other government personnel were groaning about tiny ant-sized insects hovering over people’s heads and zooming back and forth at measured speeds, compromising any sense of tranquility they collectively attempted to forge to mask their trepidation.
Regardless of one’s awareness or ignorance of the peculiarity of insects flying around such a sterile gathering space, at 2103hrs, the deafening sounds of the trumpets, trombones, and percussion of the Ultimate Minister’s official song, “The Celestial One,” began blaring on the loudspeakers. All in attendance obediently stood, facing the Ultimate Minister as he entered the Holy Auditorium from a private entrance behind the stage. Marching with two Divine Cloaked Force agents, dressed in all black, including pyramid-shaped masks concealing their necks, head, and faces, flanked behind him, Stewart climbed toward the stage. As he ascended, he took a moment to admire the one-hundred-sixty foot tall DRF flag, draped from the auditorium’s ceiling toward gold-tiled stage floor. When he reached the rhinestone podium at the center of the stage, Stewart stepped into a light shone down from a bright oculus suspended from the gold-domed ceiling. After he adjusted the microphone, he absorbed a relishing sight of the crowd before him, perceiving each breathing piece of flesh as disciples expecting the word of their lord.
“Good evening, my fellow Freedomers,” Stewart bellowed with vindictiveness. “I know you’re all wondering why I’ve called this speech on one of our most sacred holidays. We have reached a critical juncture in our nation’s young history. For the first time since the end of the brutal and cataclysmic Endgame Conflict, a recent threat has emerged; a threat that will challenge our freedom, our way of life, and the future of this country that we have worked, under the watchful eye of God and our savior Joshua, so hard to rebuild. That threat, my fellow Freedomers, is New Alaska, and President George Fetisov. Tonight, on this Remembrance Day, I call upon every man, woman, and child of this great nation, to prepare to show the same resolve and determination the Americans showed on that fateful day generations ago.”
Audible gasps, whispers and chatter ensued.
“But,” Stewart continued, “Mr. Fetisov is, like the rest of us, human, and subject to the frailties and imperfections of life. In the past few months, President Fetisov has exhibited a fatal character flaw.”
As the Ultimate Minister continued his dirge, a disturbance was taking place at the back of the auditorium. Two matter barriers dissolved, and three DCF agents discreetly entered. Then, they snuck up behind a twenty-ish man clad in a red-buttoned shirt, thin glasses, and slacks, sedated him with a syringe, and carried him out of the Auditorium. Soon after, two more triumvirates of CG agents entered and sedated and transported two more journalists; one male, one female, away.
Stewart pridefully gleamed at his agents’ work, then continued speaking.
“New Alaska,” a placid and composed Stewart continued, “has perfected what is known as Project Miracle. Project Miracle is a sophisticated, technologically advanced program of Hathaway bombs capable of wiping out a nation the size of Russia and China combined. The Fetisov Administration has concrete, well-organized plans to invade and bomb select targets in the Divine Republic of Freedom. And they will not hesitate to do so.” Finally, Stewart’s tone turned somber. “My fellow Freedomers,” he pled while conveying desperation, “we founded this great nation on peace, harmony, and goodwill. But sometimes, it is necessary to protect such principles with the use of force. If we don’t act now, if we don’t take leadership against this grave threat, our nation, and our world, once again, will be on the precipice of extinction.”
And then it dramatically came:
“We must now consider…war.”
Shrieks and gasps filled the Holy Auditorium air, like a badly botched high note sung by an opera singer. The panicky chatter audibly overdubbed Stewart’s next words: “We will hope and pray for a peaceful resolution, but we must prepare for the worst.” Finally, as the chatter subsided, Stewart’s menacing growl returned. “And we will rise to the challenge! Long live the Divine Republic of Freedom! Good night, and God bless!”
As His Magnificence stepped down from the podium, a wall of shouting filled the air. Lost within the collective echo of hundreds of voices were the cries of journalists resisting detainment from uniformed DCF agents. Amid all the chaos and confusion, Francis Stewart began another major departure from Holy Auditorium speech protocol. Flanked by two burly members of the CG, Stewart stepped down from the podium and began walking toward the center aisle, ignoring the forlorn and appalled facial expressions of those he passed by. He also did not take the time to thank the Supreme Assembly of Administration members seated in the front row and completely ignored the indignant expressions of Devon Jackson and Karen MacDougal. Eventually, as Stewart marched up the aisle, the crowd noise slowly simmered to a hush.
Finally, Stewart and the DCF agents emerged outside into a driving rain combined with a dense fog. Flashbulbs popped beyond the steel-reinforced gates flanked between gold towers with eternal flames burning on its torches as a suddenly frenzied crowd a crowd of hundreds of reporters and onlookers watched the Ultimate Minister appear. Stewart smiled and waved to the crowd as he politely declined a request for an umbrella from a Guard. He then entered a lush garden with exotic flowers that encircled the oval driveway that connects the golden torches to the holographic archways of the North and South towers. After arriving at the center of the courtyard, an already soaked Stewart unhesitatingly knelt on the mud beneath him in front of the courtyard’s centerpiece as a wall of white flashes appeared beyond the gates.
With unabashed reverence, the Ultimate Minister leaned upward and raised his arms skyward, mimicking the figure immortalized on the gold-plated statue before him: the twenty-foot tall caricature of Joshua Evans, in his military uniform, praying while drawing his terminal breath after absorbing the radioactive material in the Hathaway bomb meant to destroy New York City.
And then, in a celestial moment for Francis Stewart on an ostensibly righteous occasion, the fog cleared, the rain diminished, and the stars appeared.