IMMORAL AND ILLEGAL.
At 205 hrs, on 16 September 14 N.G., Francis Stewart called the first ever overnight meeting of the SAA to order. The multicolored ocular light show of the Manhattan skyline was merely a background program compared to the tension-wrought setting developing in Chamber of the Divine Power.
Stewart, in red-white-and-blue polo and faded black slacks, leaned forward in his throne with his hands folded and his lips creased. An overwrought Assembly collectively glanced at their leader.
“Well, your magnificence,” Karen MacDougal began, “forgive me for being forward, but it is strange that we’re gathered here in the wee hours of the morning, and we haven’t recited the Sacred Requiem?”
“Miss McDougal,” Stewart replied, sounding somber, “we meet under very informal circumstances, and I believe this warrants a different prayer.”
Then, in a more mystifying move, Jack Minor, the most stoic of SAA members, hastily adjusted his blue tie and wiped his clammy fingers on his glasses.
“Oh, great Joshua of America,” Stewart began.
Minor gasped. Knowing Francis Stewart for over a decade, he realized that His Magnificence recites the Joshuan prayer when he has made a harsh decision. The moment’s significance caused his heart to pop beneath his blue shirt and red tie.
“Your divine wisdom and eternal faith in God inspired us…” Stewart continued.
“You gave your life…”
And so it went. As soon as Stewart muttered the word “amen,” Karen McDougal nudged Devon LaForge and mouthed, “He’s lost his mind.”
“Ladies and gentlemen of the Supreme Assembly of Administration,” Stewart stammered with portentous undertones, “I thank you all for gathering at this hour.” The SAA could feel Stewart’s nervousness in his normally demonstrative voice. “This is an arduous time. I know some of you may see me as cold-hearted, but I’m still as fragile as the next mere mortal.”
What a phony, MacDougal thought. She wasn’t alone.
“Your Magnificence,” LaForge sternly chimed in, “with all due respect, sir, you once told us that feelings never yield results?”
“I second Mr. LaForge’s sentiments,” MacDougal spluttered.
“Yes, you’re correct, Ms. MacDougal and Mr. LaForge,” Stewart resigned. “We all saw what happened at Rockland tonight. Contrary to rumor, the Seattle Slayers didn’t commit this act of war. George Fetisov ordered the New Alaska Secret Ops to attack. Ladies and gentlemen, we must declare…”
“SIR!” LaForge shouted as he stood up and pounded his fist on the Table of History.
“SIT DOWN, MR. LAFORGE!” Minor demanded, pointing his finger.
“NO, I WILL NOT SIT DOWN!” LaForge barked back. “When I was elected to this administration; by the PEOPLE, may I remind you, I took an oath to be an honest advisor to the Ultimate Minister! And I plan to not only uphold that vow, but personify it! Your Magnificence, how do we know this isn’t just you continuing your feud with George Fetisov?”
“You’re out of line, Mr. LaForge!” Minor fruitlessly shouted.
“What evidence do you have the Seattle Slayers committed this act of war?” LaForge continued. “We need tangible, concrete evidence that the NASO was responsible, because without it, I, sir, will not vote to authorize military force!”
Shortly after, the typically quiet Tammy Traverse, the junior member of the Legislative Wing, a thirty-nine-year-old with curly blonde hair and a round face, dressed in a jean jacket and black skirt, chimed in. “I know some of your feelings hurt, but - and Mr. LaForge, I know you’ll appreciate this - we also took an oath to listen to the Ultimate Minister.” Stewart’s trepidation ceased, and he mustered a smile. “And if we choose not to do so,” Tammy continued, “no matter how much it tears at your ego or your soul, then we have not upheld our pledge.”
Damn her and her legal mumbo jumbo, MacDougal mused.
She’s a jerk, but she’s right, LaForge thought.
“Thank you for that reminder, Ms. Traverse,” Oswaldo Ortiz sarcastically muttered.
“Well said, Ms. Traverse,” George Drummond gleamed. “Your Magnificence, if you please.”
“Thank you all,” Stewart, feeling a newfound sense of confidence, declared. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he continued as he revived his methodical, demonstrative oratorical tone. “At this hour, I have the Divine Forces on standby. Army, Navy, Marines, even the damn reserves! We no longer have a choice.”
“Yes, we do!” MacDougal shouted.
“MISS…” Minor screamed.
“NO, EXCUSE ME, SIR,” MacDougal growled, “Your Magnificence, I shall remind you and the rest of my colleagues of another duty the people elected us to uphold! And that is to make decisions that impact the lives of millions. We, as the proverbial judge, jury and executioners, have made decisions that most common men and women wouldn’t have the guts to make! Think about what’s happened at this table: we implemented universal healthcare, we’ve consecrated enormous wealth, and… we…” Karen’s voice quivered as she continued: “we’ve put fellow humans to death in public, for Joshua’s sake! Three weeks ago, I watched as that Astoria rapist scumbag draw his last breaths at Rockefeller. Part of me was happy to watch him squirm, but I couldn’t help but question my humanity. Then I remembered: it was legal! If there’s one thing I take pride in as a group, is that we decide under the guise of the law. What you’re suggesting we do, Your Magnificence, is not only immoral, but illegal.”
A silence filled the Chamber. Not even the Ultimate Minister could respond. Illegal. The word made the SAA as uncomfortable as the word war.
“Miss MacDougal,” Stewart began, “I again appreciate your enthusiasm, and your heartfelt devotion to your duties.”
“I will only agree to authorize military action,” MacDougal interrupted, “if and only if you go on FNN tomorrow night and reveal the truth about Project Miracle.”
Stewart’s eyebrows raised. Some Administrators looked at each other in disbelief.
LaForge stood up. “I concur with Miss MacDougal,” he declared.
Ortiz then followed. “I concur.”
Langdon Arshan was next. “I concur,” he said.
“On what grounds?!” Jack insisted.
“The Freedomian people will appreciate the truth.” LaForge said. “For those of you that appreciate your studies of the American military-industrial complex, they will get behind us. They won’t question us.”
“They make a point, Your Magnificence,” Traverse said. The collective eyes of the SAA suddenly transfixed on their boss, expecting a nod of agreement or an announcement. Stewart removed his glasses, then furrowed what remained of his hair.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Stewart yapped, “I apologize. Calling this meeting was a mistake. It’s clear our emotions are still too raw for rational thought. We will reconvene tomorrow at 1300. Thank you all again for coming on such brief notice. May God bless you, and God bless the Divine Republic of Freedom. We’re adjourned.”
While the rest of their colleagues departed, LaForge, MacDougal, and Ortiz remained behind, a radical departure from Chamber protocol.
“Your Magnificence, if I may,” LaForge implored of Stewart.
“Mr. LaForge,” Stewart sternly replied, “you know the rules. Any follow-up questions may either be directed to me in my Chambers or submitted in writing.”
“Sir, please…” Ortiz besought.
“Mr. Ortiz!” Stewart barked.
“Sir!” MacDougal shouted.
“Any further questions and I will invoke article seven of Chamber law, in which you will be subject to a tribunal from three of your peers, who will decide on removal from…”
“Thank you for your time, Your Magnificence,” an angry LaForge conceded. “Come on, Karen, Oswaldo. It isn’t worth it right now.”
“Get some rest,” Stewart pled with bogus sympathy as Karen, Oswaldo and Devon hastily departed. When Stewart was finally alone, he walked to the window and studied the bright lights and sparkling show of the Manhattan skyline in a moment of reflection. Minutes later, he produced his ultraphone, and he summoned a pixilation of a black circle.
“Agent O,” Stewart began. “It’s times like these I’m glad I chose you for the Covenant. Thank you for flawlessly executing the Rockland hoax, and for coordinating with FNN to sell it as a terror attack. I would like you to deploy a platoon of each branch of the Divine Military to select locations in New Alaska immediately. The execution of Plan Zero is at hand.”