Saturday, November 21, 2015

Superpowers: Sacrifice (Part VII)

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Click here for the entire story.

The year was 1961. Stockton had not spent the last few years while in exile playing solitaire and shoveling snow in Antarctica. He had continued working. His loyalists had been dispatched across Usonia to gather intelligence, much in the same way they had with the nations from earlier stages. Some spies were already in place, but much had changed since then, so he needed updated information. But this was not all he did. He had also succeeded in funding the campaign for the new leader of the free world.
Usonia was famous for pioneering a new form of governmental elections; one that was copied by other countries not long after it proved to be successful. For the first two months of an election year, every participating city large enough to qualify would hold their own presidential election. Anyone within reach who wanted to run for president would be able to, and for those first two months, they only had to convince their city that they were the right person for the job. No other city would even pay attention to them, and it was common to be running unopposed. For the next two months, each candidate who had won their city election would run a second campaign; this time competing with all the other city winners in their county. They would do this with a heavier purse, and greater notoriety. All county winners competed with each other for the next two months to win their state. Winners from a region of six states would compete across another two months until there were a total of seven candidates that would run against each other in the nationwide election for the last five weeks of the year. The incumbent would sometimes run as the eighth candidate, but they were not actually allowed to campaign since this was a distraction from running the country.
One benefit of this election structure was that it prevented only the richest from having a chance to serve their people. It did not take much money to campaign across a single city, and if you won that one, people would start to notice you, and provide you with funds so that you could go further. This also removed the need for political parties. Before this structure was implemented, people would regularly vote for whichever candidate belonged to their party, and all but completely ignore their actual position on the issues. This also meant that the candidates could be gradually whittled down until only the best remained, and once the electorate only have seven people to vote for, they knew that the six they were not yet familiar with had already been vetted by their area’s voters. But it was not without its flaws. When only rich and/or famous people could run for office, you pretty much knew what you were getting into. But when a random person from a random city who had no experience, could potentially run the country, it was possible to generate a somewhat fabricated narrative for them without anyone noticing. And this was especially true of any election before the data network was invented, and any six-year-old with a computer could run a background check.
Former governor of Federama, Frederick Stockton used this flaw to his advantage. Near the end of 1959, he personally traveled to Usonia in secret and recruited a woman named Larisa Peters. She had no prior aspirations for leadership, but she had a passion for politics, and a strong community in her Telamonic temple. Many believed in her, and her ideas of peace from sacrifice integrated well with Stockton’s plans for finally disarming the world. She would end up making one of the greatest sacrifices to carry out what she believed to be a righteous mission. She ran for president in the large city nearest to her town on a mild and generic platform; one that she won easily due to Stockton’s secret financial contributions. She continued through the elections, and found herself president eight months later.
After taking her position in the capital, Peters took a radical stance against Federama. She started out slowly making waves; an offhanded comment here, a meeting with the right person there. Within only a few months time, she had managed to create dozens of resistance groups all over; people who were angry with her, and were attempting to get her to step down. Protests began to crop up across the land, and she was facing a ton of backlash from congress. Almost no one was happy with her term, and the few who were happy could not be loud enough to be heard. Nobody so much as suspected that Peters had been working with Stockton. Again, this was before the personal computer was invented, and so tracing the campaign funds, and connecting the dots, would have been difficult at best.
The resistance grew and merged, until someone had the bright idea of making the connection between Peters’ ideas and everything that a certain former island leader had feared years ago. Suddenly, Stockton was no longer a pariah, but a hero to the people; one with a following ten times larger than his home’s population. Everybody wanted to be part of history, even if they weren’t educated enough to understand what the issues really were. More recruiters from the Antarctic base were dispatched to Usonia, and contacted the protesters. Together, they formulated a plan to get Stockton back on the radar for good, and in the best light possible. Eventually, he was able to officially step out of exilement, and begin to speak across Usonia. His following continued to increase until even people who weren’t really part of it agreed that he had been right all along.
Stockton held a highly publicized event where he would go to the capital of Usonia and request a meeting with President Peters. They stepped into a room together and began discussing the final stage of the final stage. It didn’t take very long, but they wanted to make it seem like Stockton was working tirelessly to convince her to change her mind, and so they just played cards for several hours. Once enough time had passed, an agreement had been supposedly reached. Peters took to the podium and announced plans to relieve her country of every single one of its nuclear weapons, and to place a moratorium on nuclear research that pertained to its applications for violence. People would go on to say that she only agreed to this so that she would not lose her chance at a second term, but most didn’t care. As long as the job was done, it didn’t matter how it had happened.

Months later, it was once again the eighth day of the eighth month, on the anniversary of the Utah bombing that had ultimately killed Stockton’s parents. He had invited his now gracer, President Peters to visit the secret Antarctic base. She was actually still at risk of being impeached by her electorate, but she wasn’t worried about that. Someone else could have the chair. She had no intention of putting her name on the ballot in 1965 anyway. She had some news of her own to give to Frederick, but wanted to let him tell his news first. He escorted her to a viewing room they overlooked the floor, and then went downstairs alone. Every single one of the hundreds of bombs and missiles that had not already begun the process of dismantlement were in one place. She positioned her lips over the microphone. “Is this safe?”
“You are perfectly safe in there,” Stockton assured her from the floor.
“Are you safe? Should you not be wearing protection, or something?”
“I was born immune to nuclear radiation.”
“You were? Because of Utah?”
“Because of Utah.”
“What are you doing, Frederick?”
“I want you to know that I had not intended on bringing you into this. I didn’t even know you existed when I started my plans. But those plans had to change, and when I first recruited you, I never knew that I would fall in love.”
“You’re scaring me. What are you going to do with these weapons? Why have they not yet been destroyed?”
“The world is sick, Larisa. It needs to be cleansed. I started forming this plan when I was still only a child. I never thought I would actually be able to get away with it, but humans have proved to be just as predictable as I suspected. Even with my setbacks and alterations, things went about the same as I thought they would. The only surprise was you and me. And I’m sorry for what I have to do now.”
“Oh my God. You’re going to send the bombs, aren’t you. This was your plan? To become what you claimed to fear the entire time?”
Frederick smiled. “That’s funny. You’ll understand. It might take years, but once I’m done here, and the world can begin anew, you’ll know that my mission was the best thing to happen to this planet since its coalescence.”
“Frederick. Don’t do this. You hear me? Do. Not. Do this!”
“Push the button, Tanner,” Frederick ordered.
“No!” Peters yelled, but Roma Tanner was in a separate room, so she couldn’t get to him. She banged on the door and watched in horror as Roma pushed the latte-colored button.
“Godspeed,” Roma said into the microphone. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you. Your country, and your planet, appreciates your sacrifice, even if they never know what happened here today.”
Frederick Stockton stepped into the machine and placed his hands on the metal bars to each side of him. The radiation from the weapons began to leak out of them and seep into his body. The power increased exponentially until he had absorbed all of the radiation. “If I could have,” he said through coughs and tremors, “I would have sent the weapons themselves, but we simply do not have the technology for it. The more I waited to implement the plan, the more weapons I would have needed to transport, and the more rockets I would have needed to build. I would never be able to keep up, and so this is my sacrifice. There is no truly safe way to dismantle a nuclear bomb, Larisa. They’re always dangerous, and the ones I let go could come back and bite you in the ass one day. There is also no safe way to set one off. You could do it over the ocean, but do you really want to do that for every bomb in the world? The environmental repercussions are beyond human understanding. I couldn’t risk that either. The only safe method is to get them off-world, and only I can do that. Close me up, Tanner.”
“Yes sir,” Roma replied.
Frederick continued speaking into his microphone. “I’m sorry it has to end like this, but also...I’m not sorry.” The door of the machine closed in front of him and lurched. It was preparing for takeoff. “I love you.”
“Oh my God, it’s a spaceship.” Larisa placed her hand over her mouth and gasped.
Roma began to count down, “Eleven...ten...nine...”
“Wait!” Larisa screamed. “Wait! I’m pregnant!”
Frederick smiled again. “I wish I could meet my child. How about we name the baby Gardenia? After my mother. Could you make that sacrifice for me?”
Tears dripped from Larisa’s cheeks. “That’s a beautiful name. It isn’t a sacrifice.”
“Goodbye.” The rocket shot out of the base and through the sky. It soared out of the atmosphere and into space. It was designed with no navigation. It was just supposed to go upwards as far as it could, for as long as it could. It was not until the rest of the world had mastered space travel did people know how far Stockton had made it away from the planet before his ship blew up. He died without ever being sure that his mission had succeeded. Since that day, save a few outliers that were stopped, the only nuclear research conducted had been for benevolent reasons like renewable energy. Frederick Stockton landed in the history books as the leader who had made the greatest sacrifice for the happiness of mankind.

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