THAT THREE-LETTER WORD.
Francis Stewart adjusted his red Windsor-knotted tie attached to his white pinstriped shirt, fluffed the lapels of his black blazer, and groomed his slick coma-white hair with his wrinkled fingers. Then, with his hazel eyes peering beyond his thin-framed glasses, he glanced back and forth at the vast collection of concrete blocks, late 21st century architecture, faint fog, and greenery with white specs sprinkled about before him. The breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline on the one-hundred-forty-fifth floor of the South Capitol Tower adjacent to the East River, was a view that, to Stewart, is what he believes God himself feels when he looks down through the clouds from heaven. And on this Monday morning, 4 September N.G., at approximately 900 hrs, it seemed God himself erased the clouds above for His Magnificence to reveal his hometown, a glistening concrete Garden of Eden beneath a purely azure sky.
The view was an ancillary benefit of having the privilege to access the Chamber of the Divine Power, the official conference room of the Supreme Assembly of Administration. The SAA, a group of ten elected officials; five from the legislative wing, which creates the DRF’s laws, and the judicial wing, which not only serves as the Ultimate Minister’s legal advisers, but also the nation’s Supreme Court, will enter the Chamber for their weekday morning meeting. The Chamber appears as a generic conference room with little unique features aside from a thirty-foot-long glass table and chairs, and for good reason: to keep it shrouded in secrecy to not reveal its location to any potential enemy or harm-wisher.
Before his personal counselors could enter the Chamber, Stewart began his favorite morning ritual. He tapped his right index finger on a button fastened to his left lapel; a gold caricature of Joshua Evans raising his arms skyward - the universal symbol of Joshuanism – followed by a tap of a pin of the Freedomian flag below it. Then, he folded his wrinkled hands into a knot, bowed his head, and silently commenced a prayer.
As soon as his prayer ended, the five-inch thick mahogany door on the Southeast corner of the Chamber opened. Jack Minor, a short, stubby sixty-year-old former Supreme Court Justice of the State of New Jersey, and the highest-ranking member of the SAA’s judicial wing, entered.
“Your Magnificence,” a smiling Minor, clad in a white shirt, black vest, and dark jeans declared as he extended his hand towards his boss.
“Beautiful morning, Mr. Minor, isn’t it?” Stewart gleefully asked as he firmly shook Minor’s hand.
“Yes, indeed, sir.”
“You ever just stop and absorb this view sometimes, Jack? You ever wonder what this city did to deserve being spared utter annihilation in the Endgame?”
“God’s will, sir. I’m most astounded by the charred dents and the missing spire of the Empire State Building. It’s now the world’s grandest conflict memorial.”
“Absolutely. But contrast that with all the contemporary architecture: all those new luminous plastic-and-limestone free-standing skyscrapers near the Rockefeller Execution Grounds, then, there’s the construction of the Southstreet Skytower adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge, currently 2,000 feet tall and expected to reach a mile in height in the next two years. Still can’t believe the Freedom Tower still stands intact. Oh, and…by Joshua…the Manhattan Needle; the tallest structure on Earth, exactly one mile tall. Still don’t quite understand why it was constructed on the border of Central Park South, and why it was designed like a needle injected into a human arm to draw blood. Architects must have had too much harlowcane.”
“Plus, it’s astounding how Central Park has become a haven for pryvie colonies; that endless collection of tent cities, makeshift shelters, and other assorted scrap heap dwellings filtering through to the ruins of Manhattan’s northern neighborhoods is such an eyesore.”
“The last beacon of hope in a broken world, Jack,” Stewart replied with a smirk. “Jack, you know why you’re my best friend on the assembly? Not only are you as stanch a conservative and as devout a Joshuan as me, but you’re also my favorite sycophant!”
Both men shared an uproarious laugh.
“But honestly,” Minor said after catching his breath, “you are keeping that throne nice and warm for me, right?” he asked with a wink.
Stewart grinned and replied: “that’s up to the folks in Shanghai!” He then winked back and chuckled.
Shortly after, the nine remaining SAA members entered the chamber in unison, then approached Stewart to greet him with a smile and a handshake, as is custom for SAA meetings. When that ritual was completed, the entire SAA took their respective seats at the glass table, known as the “Table of History.” Stewart then took his position in his personal chair: designed like a king’s throne; painted in gold with velvet arm rests, memory-foam back rest, rhinestone edges, a gold-plated crown with silver studs at the top of the backrest, and serpents wrapped around the wooden apparatus that holds the chair together. Stewart personally designed this chair to serve as a reminder to Stewart of the original sin, and he positioned it on the north end of the Chamber so another equally astounding view: the twin gold-plated North Capitol Tower with the cantilever skybridge at the one-hundred-fortieth below connecting the towers on either side.
When Stewart postured himself in front of his throne, he commenced the Freedomian government’s most important custom.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the Supreme Assembly of Administration,” Stewart boomed, echoing throughout the chamber. “The eyes, ears, heart, and soul of the government of the Divine Republic of Freedom…please place your right hand over your heart…as we recite the Sacred Requiem of Divinity.”
Seconds later, the chant required of all Freedomian government officials prior to any conference, speech, or formal gathering, began, in unison:
“God has smiled upon us and the Divine Republic of Freedom on this day. We shall faithfully execute the Divine Treatise of Freedom with integrity, devotion, and passion. And shall we fail, may God judge us to our graves, may we take responsibility for our actions, and may we all step down in the name of freedom for God and for the Freedomian people. Amen.”
“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. You may be seated,” Stewart declared.
The SAA took their assigned seats; and His Magnificence sat on his “throne”, re-adjusted his lapel, and leaned forward, feeling placid at first, but before he began to speak, a hint of angst crept in.
“Thank you all for gathering at the Table of History this morning,” Stewart began. “While God has graced us with this gorgeous day, I’m afraid he is about to brew some stormy clouds in the heavens. A grave threat has been posed to our national security. As we all know, Project Miracle is the most highly-classified initiative in human history. Prior to the Endgame, scientists in laboratories, factories, and information technology centers in the Pacific Northwest began production on the Project in the hope of producing a substance that will, from an economic, cultural, and scientific standpoint, be the backbone of the world’s future. Since the first Divinity Day, scientists in the DRF have worked longer and harder than our New Alaskan counterparts. They are very, very close to the end of the Project, and the technology they have produced could make our nation more powerful and influential than you can ever imagine. As a result, it seems President George Fetisov is none too pleased with us being one step ahead of the game. So, he is prepared to go public with Project Miracle, not only to force our scientists to share the technology with New Alaska, but to blackmail me! If this happens, ladies and gentlemen, our national security will be irrevocably compromised. Everything we have worked so hard for and fought for will go down the drain! I’ll be damned if that happens on my watch!”
“So, what are you proposing, Your Magnificence?” Jack Minor, seated to the left closest to the Ultimate Minister based on seniority, inquired.
“Mr. Minor,” Stewart somberly replied, “I have prayed…ever since this great nation came to be…that we would never, ever have to go down this path. However…deep down inside…I have always felt that because God has been neglected in much of the rest of the world…that a day like this may come, and we will have to prepare to sacrifice some of our most sacred freedoms and ideals, much like the Americans did in 2001 A.D. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to explore the possibility of declaring…war…on New Alaska.”
Or, as known in Freedomian cultural lexicon: that three-letter word.
A word, in the DRF, equivalent to a racial slur or cuss.
A word that makes the most mentally tough Freedomer cringe and recoil in horror.
And now, the ten members of the Supreme Assembly of Administration were forced to absorb the invocation of that dreaded three-letter-word in, of all places, the Chamber of the Divine Power.