A FINAL SYMBOLIC GESTURE OF DEFIANCE.
The clock struck 1400.
The 26 September morning meeting of the Supreme Assembly of Administration had reached five hours, eclipsing the previous record by three hours and forty-five minutes.
During that time, expletives, personal insults, and offensive language were slung by an exhausted Francis Stewart and forlorn members of the SAA.
Now, slumped at their respective seats, they were too exhausted to engage in further mudslinging.
Earlier, eight out of a necessary seven votes were received to ratify the invokation of the second indentation to implement a high school military draft, but that was only a portion of the tension.
The two dissenters, Devon LaForge and Karen MacDougal, called their boss a liar and vociferously denounced their colleagues as cowards.
After Stewart demanded the meeting to order, he ambushed his subordinates by introducing a new piece of legislation, one that grants him temporary absolute power in wartime and full autonomy on battle plans and strategy, the right to declare martial law, and to allow search and seizure of any Freedomer’s home without a warrant.
After an initial shock period, the vote proceeded, despite emotional pleas for each other’s souls, upward to 8-0.
Naturally, the final two votes to attain unanimity were needed from LaForge and MacDougal.
And the intensity within the Chamber would boil into a virtual Hathaway bomb.
Karen was wearing a white silk blouse with a light black jacket. Sobbing, she stood up and waved her hands toward her boss, comfortably seated in his throne, arms folded, attempting to hide a grin beneath the facade of concern. “You, sir, have shattered the integrity of me and my companions’ public service! You may as well fire us all! If we ratify the fourteenth who’s saying this won’t be permanent? What’s our purpose?! We will no longer have a say in the issues the people—THE PEOPLE—of the Divine Republic of Freedom elected us to protect, preserve, and defend under the watchful eye of God! Isn’t that a creed you reinforce, Your Magnificence?!”
Stewart sighed and scowled at MacDougal. In the past, he’d respond with fake empathy to placate disagreeable rhetoric. At this moment, asperity was his only source of communication. “We are going to WAR, Miss MacDougal,” he roared, eliciting gasps. “Frankly, I don’t care if that term offends any of you! It means tough decisions, and I will make them.”
“Sir,” LaForge rumbled as he pounded his fist on the Table of History. “I can’t believe you’re suggesting a transition to a totalitarian regime! What if you make the wrong decision during a key battle, huh? What if you cost thousands of lives of the brave young men and women you send to the front lines? How can we possibly be a nation that touts freedom when no one, not even us, has any?!”
“Mr. LaForge!” Jack Minor shouted.
“SHUT UP, YOU POMPOUS BUTT KISSER!” LaForge shouted. Minor instantly leapt out of his chair and charged at LaForge. They locked arms and wrestled each other to the floor amid gasps and cries. Langdon Arshan and Oswaldo Ortiz eventually restrained both Minor and LaForge, respectively, and continued to lock their arms under their shoulders as Stewart approached them.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!” Stewart boomed. “THIS IS THE LAST TIME I WILL ASK FOR ORDER IN THIS MEETING! I SHOULD ADMONISH ALL OF YOU RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW! THE PEOPLE ELECTED YOU TO MAKE TOUGH DECISIONS LIKE THE ONES WE ARE MAKING TODAY, AND YOU’RE GOING TO DO IT AGAIN!”
“NO!” screamed MacDougal as she furiously approached Stewart, pointing at him. “THIS MEETING WILL NOT COME TO ORDER! YOUR MAGNIFICENCE, THIS PROPOSAL IS A DERELICTION OF DUTY AND AN ABUSE OF POWER! WE KNOW YOU’LL JUST INVOKE THE SECOND AGAIN, AND YOU’LL GET THE SEVEN VOTES YOU NEED TO VALIDATE YOUR EGO!”
“Excuse me, Miss MacDougal?!” Stewart growled. “What did you just say?!”
“YOU HEARD ME, YOU LITTLE…”
“I WILL NOT HAVE MY JUDGMENT MOCKED!”
“YOU DON’T HAVE ANY JUDGMENT!”
“Mr. Minor! Set up a tribunal for 1500 tomorrow regarding the removal of Karen MacDougal from her post…”
“YOU DON’T NEED TO, SIR! I RESIGN FROM THE SUPREME ASSEMBLY OF ADMINISTRATION, AND I URGE THE REST OF YOU TO DO THE SAME!”
“Miss MacDougal,” Stewart pled with a hint of sarcasm.
“I SUBMIT MY RESIGNATION, AS WELL!” LaForge screamed as he wrestled himself away from Arshan, then pointed at Stewart. “Sir, I agree with Miss Laforge that you have abdicated your responsibilities to your office! Sending children into harm’s way?! Hegemonic domination?! You may as well change the name of this country to the Divine Totalitarian Republic! Listen to what I’m saying, everyone! Francis Stewart doesn’t need us anymore! And now, ask yourselves, did he ever want us at all?!”
“Mr. Minor,” Stewart calmly requested, “please summon the Divine Cloaked Forces.”
“HE’S USING YOU TOO, JACK! DON’T YOU GET IT?! HE’S USED ALL OF US!”
“That’s enough, Mr. LaForge!” Minor shouted as he reached for the holotab in front of his chair.
“YOU DON’T HAVE TO SUMMON MORE OF YOUR LACKEYS!” Laforge screamed as MacDougal joined him by his side. Their hearts raced while they attempted to readjust their disheveled clothing and slowly stepped back away from their colleagues. “We can show ourselves out!”
“Do you people realize what you’ve done today?!” MacDougal cried. “You’ve killed the Divine Republic of Freedom!”
“I can’t believe how spineless you all are! Shame on you!” LaForge screamed. “May God have mercy on your souls!”
Then, in one final symbolic gesture of defiance, both LaForge and MacDougal produced their SAA Gold ID cards, ripped them in half, then tossed them on the Table. Stewart looked down, ignoring their demonstrative declarations. Minor chuckled underneath his breath, and the remaining SAA members either buried their heads in their hands or forlornly tilted their eyes.
More profoundly, they were all silent, and none made eye contact at LaForge and MacDougal as they exited the Chamber of the Divine Power.
Fittingly, as they exited, gray clouds cast an appalling shadow over the South Capitol Tower, dimming any natural light within the Chamber. Stewart sat back down at his throne and silently raised his arms to the ceiling in a Joshuan prayer.
Finally, after minutes of awkward silence, Minor chimed in: “well, Your Magnificence, now that we only have eight members of the SAA present, this vote on the invocation of the fourteenth indentation is now unanimous, correct?”
“Yes, Mr. Minor,” Stewart gleamed. His gleam then turned to a smile. “Therefore, the motion to establish the Fourteenth Indentation of the Divine Treatise of Freedom, which states: The Ultimate Minister shall be granted temporary total autonomy in all matters regarding military conflict, legislative and judicial matters in the interests of the Divine Republic of Freedom, that any violation of the Third Indentation of the Divine Treatise of Freedom is hereby considered treason, punishable by death without trial or due process, and the contents of the eleventh indentation of the Divine Treatise of Freedom expanded to include the granting of authority to search and seize one’s property without a warrant; is, under the watchful eye of God and the presence of these witnesses, hereby ratified.”
Silence ensued; awkwardness and discomfort filling the air with no genuine sense of accomplishment, just exhaustion and malaise. This mood reflected in Stewart’s next murmured and subdued statement: “May God bless the Divine Republic of Freedom. We are adjourned.”
Then, every Chamber of the Divine Power protocol shattered. The SAA, save for Jack Minor, remained slumped at their chairs, either slouched on their chairs or leaned against the Table of History; silent, detached.
The first person to exit was Stewart, with Minor following close behind. Stewart remained calm, expressionless, while Minor walked with a confident posture, bordering on haughty. When they entered the elevator, the frostiness and tension that permeated within the last five-plus hours suddenly vanished, and one of relief and triumph prevailed. They smiled and shook hands, then embraced.
“Congratulations, sir,” Minor declared. “We did it.”
“My friend,” Stewart replied, “we’ve waited years for this day. Summon Agent O to alter the 14th to expand the Third.”