The National Congress
The National Congress was full. Every seat of what was once a puppet organization of Yuri Kallis was full. As poor as the "Constitution" of the Constantinople Federation was, even though it was merely a document that said (to paraphrase) "The President can do whatever he wants and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it", it made clear that when the President had not appointed a successor, the decision lay with the National Congress.
Most experts were amazed when they learned that the National Congress was actually allowed to make a decision. But here it was, and today, the President of the Constantinople Federation would soon be announced. No one wanted to miss this. No one could afford to miss this. Reporters from State-controlled media, international media, and important residents in the Federation filled the observation balcony. And not a single Representative was absent, although they all knew who was going to be elected President. The vote had been cast in an earlier secret session. All this was for ceremony, now. But of course, when electing the President of the Constantinople Federation, it was best to obey ceremony and not risk getting on his bad side. Life was hard enough as it is.
Lamech Sisko applauded, a wide smile over his face. There was no doubt in his mind who deserved the Presidency of the Constantinople Federation. In the park surrounding the White Tower of Thessaloniki was a moderately-sized crowd listening to the Panhellenic Socialist Movement's presidential nominee, Karolos Papoulias, standing atop the tower and flanked on either side by security personnel and the flag of the Federation. The older man, in Sisko's mind, actually had some good ideas: greater government protection of workers' rights and unions, friendly relations with the international alliances, even joining the Comintern--oops, the Eastern Coalition now. Not to mention he had a doctorate degree, something that the demagogic Xanthou didn't have. No doubt, Papoulias deserved this.
The White Tower of Thessaloniki
While not as fiery as Xanthou, Papoulias was gaining momentum. The speakers were loud enough to project his words across the crowd and across the general area. He said, "The greatest crime of the Kallis regime was to take the vote away from the people. It was Greeks who first came up with the democratic tradition, and the tradition should return. It is the people of this great nation who should rule. And if I am appointed to the Presidency, I can assure this crowd a return to democracy." He paused to allow for the applause to dissipate. "Right now, the Constantinople Federation is engaged in democratic politics. I find it a shame that it took an assassination to find this. But if I receive the Presidency, this will not be the first and last time the Constantinople Federation had elections--real
elections, not the puppet ones that the Kallis regime enstated."
Sisko applauded with the rest. Democracy: the only
way the people could rule. Kallis made a hobby of claiming to be a ruler of the people when he was nothing of the sort; his regime was a puppet of large corporations and conglomerates, both local and American. Well, no more.
Papoulias continued after the applause had dissipated. "Now, about these claims of Greek dominance. Make
no mistake: I want the best for Greeks. But I believe that what's best for Greeks is what's best for
, regardless of whether they're Turks, Bulgarians, Slavs, whoever." More applause. "Yuri
Kallis only marginally brought minorities into the Constantinople Federation. But I promise that every
minority will be treated with merit, and only the best will be brought into my administration, regardless
of their ethnicity." Cheers. "Rest assured that this is the best way to stop the attacks on Greeks. My
administration will end the terrorism sweeping the nation by integrating us all into one
nation, the great Constantinople Federation. Then and only then can we as a nation truly succeed."
The cry of "Traitor!" cracked through the steady applause. Lamech Sisko stopped applauding to get a look at the heckler, as many in the crowd did. He actually was a handsome and tall man, dressed in decent yet not extravegant clothing. His face, though, was contorted in anger. "You traitor! Liar! Thief!"
Papoulias appeared to have noticed, but didn't respond. In fact, he began to speak again. "The opposition may be rowdy, but that does not make them right."
The aggressor did not abate. "You claim to love Greeks, but you lie! You want to turn this nation over to the Turks! The assassins!"
Another chimed in. "You know why he stands on that tower? That's where the Turks imprisoned Greeks centuries ago. Look at him, preaching freedom when he stands atop a Turkish prison!"
The security personnel came from around the tower, headed strait for the loudmouth. Good riddance, Sisko thought.
If only it had been that simple. The man pulled a club out of his belt and beat the officer over the back of the head. As the man dropped to the ground, the other security guard reached for his gun, only to be clubbed as well by someone else from the crowd. Sisko, shocked, looked around him, and to his astonishment, saw a dozen...no, well more than a dozen...others pulling out clubs, nunchucks, wrenches, and other weapons, all scattered throughout the crowd, almost on cue. That's when the screems began. Women and men dispersed, doing their best to escape what they could tell was impending chaos. A good number of others, though, appearing to be supporters, began to descend on the militants. Some were smart, grabbing thick tree branches or something they could use as a weapon. Others thought their brute strength was good enough, which wasn't enough to compensate for their lack of brains when their skull was cracked.
Papoulias was left standing up there, awestruck, as his security personnel left him to rush down the tower. A squad of seven security, moderately armored, descended upon the crowd, struggling through the confusion as the rats escaped the sinking ship. They didn't pull out their guns; not wise in a confused crowd, where the innocent could easily be shot. Instead, they grabbed their nightsticks and engaged. But with the rioters becoming more organized in their efforts, they instead found themselves engaged in vicious combat that they were destined to loose.
It felt like a dream when Sisko saw one of the men pull out a sub-machine gun and point it at the top of the White Tower. He pulled. The gun's tip lit up. It buzzed with the bullets. He heard the sound of ricocheting bullets, then the man was tackled by a guard. Sisko looked up to see that the gun had only chipped off a portion of the brick that was below Papoulias, who was in the process of diving like a soldier when Sisko saw him. Not killed, Sisko thought. Or, at least, he didn't think so.
Then Sisko remembered an overlooked detail. When the man with the sub-machine gun fired, his sleeve fell to reveal the lower half of the eagle-and-crosshairs now associated with the DEP. But Sisko didn't have time to dwell on this, as he was clubbed over the head and knocked out cold by an unseen assailant.
A week later, Karlos Papoulias dropped out of the running for President, after receiving a death threat from an unknown source, and after another rally that turned out similarly.
Dimitris Sioufas, the Speaker of the National Congress, stepped up to the podium. The sounds from both the floor and the balcony dissipated. This would be the defining moment of the Constantinople Federation. At this time, either democracy could be enstated permanently, ending the tyrrany that had sweeped the nation since its beginning, or a new tyrant could take the helm. And no one wanted to be chatting when the announcemment was made.
Of course, these things have to begin with a speech. And Sioufas was not going to pass up the opportunity to give a speech and actually have it have some sort of meaning. So he said, "Citizens of the Constantinople Federation, the course of our nation shall be set now. After the tragedy that befell our nation on the sixteenth of January this year, we have suffered from forces that threaten to tear the nation apart. Radical nationalist groups claim the right to secede; some, the right to rule. But in these troubling times, the forces of democracy and the forces of the people's will have stood strong. We all want a more secure nation, and many want the nation to remain united. So I, as the Speaker of this body, am pleased to announce that in a secret session of the National Congress earlier, a candidate capable of leading the Constantinople Federation in these dark, troubling times, has been chosen."
When he was "elected" to the National Congress, Onesimos Perro didn't expect to actually have to make important decisions. The body had been nothing more than a puppet of Yuri Kallis, to demonstrate some inkling towards democracy when there was none. So why did Perro take the job? Well, it paid, didn't it? Before the assassination, it was one of the easiest jobs a man could find. After...there was a bunch of people who had no idea how the democratic process truly worked, and they were left making the decisions of the nation.
Well, the first thing they tried to do was form committees. So far, that seemed to be working. Although it was exhausting. Perro was returning to his home in Constantinople after a really long committee. He parked his car on the street before his house, the streets illuminated by lamps, the cool midnight air lapping at his face as he stepped onto the sidewalk. Eyes bloodshot, he carried the heavy briefcase out of his car, up the steps, and into his home after he had fiddled with his keys for a good ten seconds. He put his briefcase down and hung up his coat and hat on the coathanger in the door. Sneaking around the corner from the kitchen in a robe was a beautiful Greek woman.
"You're home, my darling," she whispered, after coming up and embracing him.
He gave her a kiss. "Amaltheia, my love," he breathed. They kissed again. "It's been so long, and I've been so busy. I've missed being home so much."
She looked down and nodded. "Me too. Missed you so."
"Are the children in bed?" he asked.
She nodded. "Yes. They're sound asleep."
He grinned. "Good. Let me put my stuff in my study."
"I'll meet you in our room," she said, and with a glance over her shoulder, she jogged up the staircase just beyond the entrance.
Onesimos Perro took the briefcase in his hand and turned to the left into the small living room, then to the door on the far end of the living room to the right. He opened the door to the dark study, and before entering flipped on the light, revealing a desk at the far end of the room with a window behind it. So tired, and so desparate to get to his waiting wife, Perro walked right into the study and slapped his briefcase on the desk. No distractions tonight.
"Aren't you going to continue to work tonight?"
The startled Perro whirled around to the sound of the voice, which had come from the door. A man no taller than five feet seven, with jet black hair, large nose, and dark complexion was standing on the inside of the door in the shadow, with a silencer-equipped gun pointing directly at Perro. He continued in his deep voice: "After all, you are no longer a member of a puppet organization. You have a nation to build, and a leader to choose."
Perro was frozen, both hands on the edge of his desk, gripping tightly. "Who are you? How did you get in here?"
The man, without shifting his face or distracting his gun from its target, shut the study's door and locked it. He stepped toward Perro. "You may know me as Akhilleus." He gestured with his gun. "Why don't you sit down in the chair behind your desk? After all, this is your study. Might as well be comfy in it."
Perro, not moving his eyes, slowly edged around the desk, then grabbed the arm of his chair and sat down. He grabbed the edge of his desk to pull himself in closer, and as he did so pressed a red alarm button, recently installed. But the expression on his face didn't change. He didn't want to alert the unwelcomed guest. Hopefully the security personnel would arrive before things went wrong. Perro couldn't stall forever.
Akhilleus grabbed the arm of one of the chairs facing the desk, still keeping the gun trained on Perro. Sitting down, he said, "And as for how I got in, I'd rather not say. I don't want you to go blocking my method of entry, not that I plan to come here again any time soon."
Akhilleus was dressed in a black button-up shirt, Levis, and black shoes. On the chest of his shirt was a black patch with the red eagle-and-crosshairs that was the icon of the radical DEP in Greece. Perro's heart dropped. He knew what this was about, and he knew who he was dealing with. Over the past months, the DEP had gained a terrible reputation amongst the opposition and those in power who were the targets. Of course, Perro hadn't figured the DEP would have the gall to send a possible assassin into his own home.
"Why are you here, in case I can't tell?" Perro pointed at the patch on Akhilleus's chest.
Akhilleus smiled. "I'm here as a representative for the DEP to persuade you to vote for Cronus Xanthou at the next committee." He shrugged. "That's all I want, really. To chat with you. Lobby on the DEP's behalf. Prove to you that Xanthou is by far the best choice for the Constantinople Federation for the Presidency. So all I ask is a moment of your time and your attention to present my case."
Perro was eyeing the gun. Think, man, think. No, wait. Stall, man, stall. "I already was going to vote for Xanthou."
"You know, Representative Perro, I happen to be on the side of a very large organization. I have far more information at my fingertips than little you. I'd advise that you don't lie to me."
That didn't work. Of course, did he really expect it to. "How do you know who I'm supporting?"
"We have sources. Supporters. Informers. I won't tell you specifically, but you get the gist of it, I assume."
"I see." Stall, man, stall. How to get more time? Ah, here's one. "Well, if you're going to pitch me a story, why don't you tell me why you're supporting Xanthou? What works for you might work for me."
Akhilleus chuckled. "I have--unorthodox--reasons to support Xanthou. Little interest to you."
"I'd still like to hear them."
"I think I'll decide what you hear and don't hear, if you don't mind."
This man's a pro. "Okay. What do you want me to hear?"
"Not much. I don't think I'll be doing much convincing until my men get here."
His men? The security better get here before then, or else Perro was screwed. "So you will be convincing me through coercion, I assume."
"Pretty much, yeah."
"And there's no real reason to support him other than that?"
"Heh, like I know. I've done a lot of convincing in my career, and very little was on the issues. Many times I was barely aware of the issues, sometimes not knowing them at all. Yes, in my line of work, the issues are of marginal importance."
"That's a rather interesting career you have there. Coercion is your business?"
"Only a part."
"A part? My my. Ever dealt with a politician before?"
Akhilleus broke out into a laugh. "Dealt with a politician? What the hell do you think I am? Some gangster off the street? My entire career has been politics. Statebuilding. Revolutions. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union and the United States, I've been a busy man! Orders just kept coming in! It didn't matter whether they were democratic movements or the Communists; all I need is the cold hard cash and I do my stuff, be it roughing up the opposition, stealing classified documents, 'convincing', as in this case, or even the occasional high-ranking assassination. I have experience, good sir. I'm a professional at this game. I have more identities than I can count; heck, I have more business cards of false identities than your entire contacts list! And I know far more about playing this game than you do."
"So the DEP hired you to do this?"
"Well, the DEP is a little bit more of an exception to the rule. Yes, they're paying me, but I have more motivation to join them. One is money. Two is power. I'm thinking of retiring or at least easing back on my business, and going into politics would be a nice way to go before retirement. Not to mention that I'm an ethnic Greek and want Greeks to rule."
Onesimos Perro felt like he had this man right where he wanted him. The security would be here any second. "I guess I shouldn't mess with you, then."
"No, that would not be a good idea. I will win, most assuredly."
And then the sweet sound of the study's door being broken down by a heavy black boot pierced through the conversation. "Freeze! Put your hands in the air," one of the men yelled. Perro looked at Akhilleus smugly. It seemed that this time was the last time the misterious man meddled with politics.
But Akhilleus had a big grin on his face, and didn't budge. The security officer yelled, "I said hands in the air!" Again, not even a twitch. Perro's smile began to fade into puzzlement.
Akhilleus laughed. "Well, aren't you going to do what they say? Why don't you take your eyes off of me and see who they're talking to."
Perro looked up, and sure enough, the guns were aimed at himself, not the intruder. Astonishment was written across his face, and slowly his hands slid up. A guard came over and handcuffed both his wrists to the arms of the chair, loose enough not to make an impression, but tight enough so that there was no way he could escape.
Akhilleus stood up, lowering his gun while the men in black suits kept their rifles trained on Perro. He came around the desk and right up to Perro's face. "As I said, I am a professional. One thing that's nice about the Constantinople Federation recently is that no one trusts the police, which means they hire out for security, which means that there is a paper trail to intercept and determine who's in what organization. When you pressed that button under your desk, you didn't summon security; you summoned my men. Thank you."
He stepped around to the other side of the desk, with Perro turning a beat red from anger. Akhilleus retook his seat, positioning it directly in front of Perro. "Now that I have you right where I want you," he said, "we can begin negotiations. And the only way negotiations can proceed is when the objectives of both sides are made clear. The objective of this side of the table is to elect Cronus Xanthou to the Presidency. And the easiest way to achieve that objective is to convince enough of the nay-sayers to change their vote and elect Xanthou. You are one of the nay-sayers, or at least not currently inclined to support Xanthou. But that will change. And as for the objective on your side of the table, we'll skip the trouble of you choosing one and pick it for you."
"How can you set my objective yourselves? It's my objective, after all."
Akhilleus smiled. He signaled to one of the security officers, who brought over to the table a laptop. "It's really quite simple. After all, an objective is something you desire, and desire can include both getting what you want and avoiding what you don't want. We know enough about your values to set your objective."
The officer set the laptop on the desk, and on the screen, through what must have been a webcam, was Perro's family, including his wife and recently-awakened, groggy children, surrounded by the barrels of guns. They looked into the camera, mortified. Onesimos Perro's heart began to pick up, his breathing to heave. They wouldn't...
"Don't doubt for one second whether I'd send the order to kill them now. I've done it in the past, and I will do so now."
Perro looked from the screen to Akhilleus's face, exhaustion all across. "What do you want me to do, you monster?"
Akhilleus shrugged. "Well, consider our objective..."
Perro screamed, "WHAT IN GOD'S NAME DO YOU WANT ME TO DO? No more riddles!"
Akhilleus slowly chuckled. "Well, you see, Representative, it simply isn't that simple. Our objective is to get Xanthou elected, not to change your vote. Now, perhaps, changing your vote would get Xanthou the Presidency, or the presidency might already be sealed in Xanthou's favor, or your vote might not be enough to sway the decision of the committee. So we want more than just your vote. We want Xanthou elected. So rather than basing our decision on how you vote, we're going to decide what happens based on the outcome of the vote. If Xanthou is elected, your family lives. If he's not, they die. That simple."
Perro was astonished. What was this? "So I could vote for Xanthou and my family could still die?"
"Precisely. Which is why it will take more than just you robotically voting for Xanthou and ending it there. You will have to convince your colleagues to do the same...which shouldn't be so hard. You're not the only one with an unwelcome visit, you know."
If looks could kill, Perro would have been free. "This is a cruel game," he growled.
Akhilleus laughed. "You have no idea how politics is done, do you? You poor freshman. Well, have I made myself clear?"
"You most certainly have."
"Excellent. Well, make yourself comfortable, Representative Perro. Go to sleep, if you want. We're going to be here all night till the committee meeting in the morning. Your guards must be able to escort you to the National Congress and ensure your security."
"Well, while we are here, I have one more question."
"Heh, if only I could. But you say you've had your hands in just about everything, including assassinations?"
A wide grin spread upon Akhilleus's face. "Yes. What's your point?"
"Would you happen to know anything about the assassination of Yuri Kallis? Like who the second assassin was?"
Akhilleus laughed. "Yes. The assassin and I are quite good friends, actually. Though that's not going to be of any use to you."
"I know, I'm just curious. How good of friends?"
"We might as well be the same person."
Sioufas looked upon the crowd. "Ladies and gentleman, international press, I'm pleased to announce the President of the Constantinople Federation, Cronus Xanthou."
Applause roard throughout the chamber, as Sioufas turned to the left of the podium to welcome the well-dressed, young Xanthou, jogging up the steps to take his place at the podium. They shook hands, with Xanthou wearing the widest grin anyone had seen him wear. As Sioufas stepped off the stage, Xanthou took the podium. The international press had stopped clapping, but those who were citizens of the Constantinople Federation continued to applaud. They didn't want to be on his bad side.
After a good minute of Xanthou saying, "Thank you," to the crowd, he began his speech. "I am pleased to announce that I accept the position appointed to me by the National Congress." More applause. After another thirty seconds, he started again. "I realize that the task before me is monumental, and therefore I am humbled by it. But just because I'm humbled doesn't mean that I don't believe I can do the job." Applause. "And I am thankful that the National Congress and the people of the Constantinople Federation had the good sense to elect me to this position. The first issue on my agenda will be the silencing of the terrorism and nationalism that is sweeping the nation. And after this, I shall establish programs that will make the Constantinople Federation the greatest nation on this Earth, greater than the North American nations and the Russians and any other power. I will appoint qualified candidates to important positions, and I will correct the mistakes made by Yuri Kallis that lead to his assassination."
Applause. "This shall be a new era for the Constantinople Federation," Xanthou continued, reaching a climax. "This shall be an era of peace and stability, one that will be marked down in the history books as a new golden age for the Greeks. And we, as a nation, shall build a nation that will last for the next millenium! This I promise you."
Everyone cheered, with the exception of the foreign press.