THE COVENANT OF JOSHUA.
Francis Stewart retreated to the one-hundred-fortieth floor of the South Capitol Tower. Not only was darkened floor specifically set aside to house mechanical gears, but also to serve as the entrance as the entrance to Francis Stewart’s other meeting room. Sandwiched behind a soundproof marble wall between meshed interlink server storage apparatuses was a black steel door, which, with an appropriately-finagled twist on the spoke-wheeled knob, granted Stewart and Stewart alone access to a revolving glass staircase illuminated by artificial candlelight descending three floors.
At the bottom of the staircase laid The Nocturn, a small oval-shaped room only lit by series of incandescent lightbulbs adorning the perimeter. Its only décor was a black ergonomic table in the center with holographic devices atop with a black and grey replica of his CDP throne in front. The Nocturn, personally named by Stewart, filled him with a pride and satisfaction that warmed his heart with a sort of voluptuous blood flow reaffirmed by an irrevocable truth planted deep within. In this secret room, he could wield his authority and influence without fear or reticence.
Stewart firmly entrenched his two-hundred-seventy pound frame in his other throne, postured himself upright, and commenced yet another Joshuan prayer. After he unfolded his hands, he clicked the holographic image projector keypad in front of him, and a sixty-five inch multi-colored pixelated box unfurled before him. Within that box were ten separate panels, two rows across, five boxes each. On the top row lay images of five men, appearing as follows from left to right:
1.A salt-and-pepper haired, round-faced Richard Bruce, the CEO of the DRF’s most profitable hover-vehicle company, Kehoe.
2.FNN pundit Mark Leonard.
3.The CEO of FNN, coma-white haired Philip Rogers, clad in razor-thin glasses and a three-piece suit with a tie of the DRF’s flag.
5.Stewart’s most trusted celebrity ally, the symbol of conservatism amongst the DRF’s entertainment industry, the crew-cutted, wrinkly-fazed Henry Rockie, star of military-themed movies and TV specials alike.
On the bottom row appeared a series of anons, all appearing by the letters they were designated by. On the left were Agents A and on the right were Agents X and Y.
In the center was the anon which Stewart secretly considered his most trusted of the group: Agent O. Unlike the remaining anons, O appears pixelated like a stick figure cloaked beneath a white button-down shirt.
“Welcome to this meeting of the Covenant of Joshua,” gushed Stewart. “As is custom to be reminded, you have all been selected for this group not only on the basis of intelligence, strategic aptitude, and intestinal fortitude, but for your undying and unconditional devotion to God, Joshua, and our country. Nothing said in these meetings offends anyone, and that’s the way it will always be. We…are the real leaders…of the Divine Republic of Freedom.”
“Thank you, your magnificence,” an amalgam of human and robotic voices subordinately declared as one.
“This morning,” a gratified Stewart continued, “we are gathered under most unorthodox circumstances. With inspiration from Joshua’s writings about God’s understanding of extenuating conditions, I come to you today not only with a clear conscience and a dogmatic conviction, but a need for counsel and honesty.”
Stewart paused, then cleaned his glasses with the lapel of his jacket.
“Last night, I came to a very punitive yet crucial decision. We need to prepare for war with New Alaska. We are all in agreement regarding the rationale behind divine force engagement against Fetisov and his cronies and how to implement it. But there is still one remaining question we must swiftly answer: not if we can sell war to the Freedomian people at a psychological, but how.”
Immediately, Agent O responded: “Your Magnificence, humans are a skittish species. No matter if you break it to them gently or compulsorily, they’re going to hate it.”
“I agree,” Philip Rogers responded. “Mark, I would like you to prepare a speech about the threat George Fetisov poses to our national security and why attack may be the only option. And invoke, heh, the W word.”
“Thank you, Mr. Rogers,” Stewart responded, “but we need to find a way to convince the scramble-statics of NOR and their followers to follow suit. They’d just blow off Leonard’s remarks as typical propaganda.”
“Instruct him anyway, Mr. Rogers,” Agent O interjected. “NOR can cover this speech as a breaking news story simply because he dared invoke the W word.”
“I understand, Agent O,” Rogers replied, “Your Magnificence, you’re not a man who is easily concerned with the Freedomian people’s reaction to the merits of war. Why, suddenly, is it a concern?”
“What I want to know, Mr. Rogers,” Stewart replied, “is how do we get twenty million Freedomers to be convinced war is the right thing?”
“Mark Leonard speaking is one thing,” Rogers replied, “but ultimately, you need to be the one to convince the Freedomian people of this plan. I suggest you prepare your own address to the nation about the clear and present danger George Fetisov poses.”
“And you should do it next Monday,” Agent O said.
“On 11 September?!” Rogers incredulously asked.
“Remembrance Day? Absolutely!” O staggeringly confirmed.
“That’s a capital idea, Agent O!” Stewart glowingly replied. “If it happens on Remembrance Day, people will believe its significance. Although NOR will have a conniption, it will at least give people something to think about!”
“Your Magnificence,” Henry Rockie, in his grindingly deep voice, interjected. “I could organize a promotional stunt; something like a subtle, patriotic PSA about Remembrance Day and how the Divine Republic is the last remaining bastion of freedom on Earth. And I could get it put on NOR! Perhaps those idiots won’t be so inconvenienced by being distracted from their harlowcane binge sessions.”
“Well,” Rogers said. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t disagree with using Remembrance Day to convey your message, Your Magnificence, but under the circumstances, I suppose it’s necessary.”
“Psychological tactics, sir,” Agent O said. “This is your chance to show a human side of yourself for the first time in a long time.”
“Mr. Minor,” Stewart said, “I trust you have no objections.”
“None whatsoever, sir,” Minor replied.
“No sir,” Agents Y, Z, A, and B simultaneously replied.
“Very well,” Stewart replied. “Let’s have the Holy Auditorium prepared for Monday. I will send out a communique to the networks and the interlink regarding a major speech. I will get to work on it immediately after we adjourn. Mr. Bruce you’ve been curiously quiet, and I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t allow you a few moments to offer suggestions or comments.”
Richard Bruce furrowed the lapel of his black polo shirt, played with his stubble, then took a deep breath. “Your Magnificence,” he began, “I’ve done a lot of favors for you, and…I haven’t forgotten about the one forthcoming. However, on the topic of psychology, I’m still not quite understanding this seemingly insatiable need for you to exact revenge on George Fetisov.”
“Why Richard, my boy, I’m disappointed in you,” Stewart nefariously replied. “Are you afraid I’m going to invoke the third on you? Because you know I wouldn’t do that to one of my oldest friends.”
“Well, no, sir, but have you ever once considered diplomacy?”
“Mr. Bruce, George Fetisov will never publicly portray himself as a cunning con artist, but he is. He’s clever, like me, but probably more so than I am.”
“Well, would it hurt to send one of your top administrators to Seattle to negotiate with him? It seems we haven’t yet exhausted all options prior to war.”
“That’s enough, Mr. Bruce,” Agent O interrupted. “We’ll deploy SPYFLYs to your home if you continue to be insubordinate!”
“Agent O, please!” Stewart pled. “I’m sorry, Richard, you know how he gets.”
“Yeah,” Bruce replied, swallowing. “I know this all too well.”
“Speaking of which,” Stewart continued, “Agent O, please deploy five swarms of SPYFLYs in the Holy Auditorium Monday, and another ten to the Strawberry Field tent city.”
“Your Magnificence, what is the purpose of deploying SPYFLYs? Are you that afraid of our citizens committing Third violations?”
“Mr. Bruce, we are in a very trying time in our history,” Stewart replied. “In a time such as this, we must take all measures to ensure law and order.”
Immediately, the robotic voice of Agent Y chimed in. “Your Magnificence, I know you’ve considered this under the most dire circumstances in the past, but you would consider invoking Plan Zero?”
“Freedomers do love betting on execution styles, Your Magnificence,” Rockie interjected.
“No, Agent Y, not just yet,” Stewart replied. “If we can’t convince 20 million Freedomers to get behind a war with New Alaska through manipulation, then perhaps we will consider intimidation. That being said, it won’t hurt to at least…hint…at such a possibility. Mr. Leonard, in your speech, I would like you to spread a rumor that the DRF will now be issuing warning communiques to any Freedomian suspected of violating the Third. As the days pass, Mr. Rogers, I expect the rest of your anchors to begin dropping similar hints. But keep in mind, right now, these are just innuendo.”
“Your Magnificence,” Richard pled, “If you implement Plan Zero, you know there’s no turning back.”
“Thank you, Mr. Bruce,” Stewart softly replied. “I am fully aware. Let us adjourn for this morning, and come back tomorrow and further discuss our plan for Remembrance Day and beyond. Thank you all for attending. Anon agents, if you could please stay for a few more minutes. The rest of you, peace be with you, and God bless the Divine Republic of Freedom.”
The lower rectangular holographic row expanded to a full screen view, enlarging the anon symbols. Stewart leaned forward intently.
“Anons, my next report to the Shanghai Sovereignty is this coming Wednesday. Are you all prepared with your updates on the Prospects?”
“Yes, Your Magnificence,” Agent B’s robotic voice replied. “My prospect will be accepted to Harvard within the next month.”
“Good,” Stewart replied. “Agent A.”
“My prospect begins basic Divine Marines training next week.”
“I’m afraid, sir, I must consider termination of my prospect from the program. The full report is awaiting you in your inbox.”
“Pity. And finally, Agent Y.”
“Your Magnificence…I guarantee you…my prospect is…exactly what you are looking for.”
Francis Stewart’s frown turned to a delighted grin.