Saturday, November 18, 2023

Extremus: Year 66

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image Duet AI software
Arqut wanted to pretend like he never professed his love to her last year, and Tinaya decided to respect that. They could revisit their respective feelings at a later date if he ever felt comfortable enough for it. In the meantime, it’s not like she’s going to entertain other suitors. If she were ever going to settle down with anyone, it would be with someone like him. She already knows him, and they have a rapport. She’s the First Chair, and doesn’t have time to hunt around, looking for love. Yeah, it sounds very impersonal, but again, that’s not what she’s looking for. If it finds her, then fine, but she can’t let it distract from her responsibilities. Though, if Cleader is to be believed, a relationship wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world right now. It is an election year, and her tenure is up for renewal. She needs all the help she can get, because incumbency comes at a price. She’s not allowed to campaign for reëlection. The way the founders thought of it, a civil servant’s duty is to serve their office, not to concern themselves with retaining that office. All sorts of problems throughout the history of politics might have been solved or subverted if elected officials did their goddamn jobs, instead of spending all their time trying to keep them.
So it’s been a stressful time, because Cleader continues to push Tinaya towards making herself look her best for the electorate, and while that doesn’t qualify as campaigning, just the strategy meetings she’s had to endure with him have become tedious and annoying. As predicted, her approval rating has dropped in recent months. She’s still slated to win at the end of the year, but it’s going to be tighter than she would like. But if she loses, it will be okay. She will not crawl back into the hole she lived in after she failed to get into college. She’ll do everything she can to make this ship, and the journey they’re all on together, safe, enjoyable, and productive.
There is no exception to the rule that prevents Tinaya from campaigning for herself, but there is nothing to stop others from doing it for her. Any private citizen has the right to free speech, and that speech may include their political affiliations, and the candidates who they support. Everyone has their fanbase, and Tinaya has a particularly vocal one. The thing is, though, she’s not allowed to meet any of these people, at least not within the context of their campaign efforts on her behalf. It is reasonable for the First Chair to meet her constituents, to discuss their needs or whathaveyou, but only as long as it doesn’t raise any suspicion that she’s involved in her own reëlection endeavors. Her doorbell chimes, and she answers it.
“Miss Kurosawa, this is highly irregular.” She’s the spearhead for Tinaya’s campaign. She’s not supposed to be anywhere near this office.
Avril nods. “Well, it’s unusual, but I have a good reason. If I promise that this does not break any policies or laws, can I come in for a chat?”
Tinaya thinks about what to do. She lifts her watch to her lips. “Call Hozan Peck.”
Hozan Peck here,” the voice comes in from her watch.
“Could you please teleport to my office?”
Right away, sir.” He appears.
“Mr. Peck, would you please sit in on our meeting?”
As Head of Ethics, he’s just as surprised to see Avril Kurosawa here, but he knows that both of them know the rules, so if this meeting is happening, calling him was the right thing to do. He doesn’t feel the need to argue that this shouldn’t happen at all, because there must be a decent reason. “Certainly.”
Tinaya goes back to behind her desk while the other two sit opposite her. “Miss Kurosawa, could you tell me what this is about?”
“I am here to tell you that I can no longer lead your civilian campaign.”
“Now, it’s not mine,” Tinaya argues. “Mr. Peck, the two of us have never spoken to each other before today. I want to assure you that—”
“Yes, yes, yes, I believe you. Go on, Miss Kurosawa.”
“It’s not that I don’t believe in you anymore,” Avril continues. “I just feel that I can do better. I have been studying your career since it began, and it has prepared me for civil service in surprising ways. I’m confident that I can be an even better First Chair than you. You have been focused in recent years in maintaining the status quo, and I think we should begin to focus on improvement. As your former campaign leader, I was unable to voice my concerns to you directly, which is a sacrifice I willingly made at the time, but what my partner has helped me realize is that my ideas should not be silenced, and the best way for me to see them through is to become the one who can enact them. I am here as a courtesy before my public announcement to inform you first that I will be running for your seat this year.”
Normally, Avril’s decision would be considered a bit late. This is not in any legal sense, of course. She could submit her name to the ballot on the day before the vote if she wanted to. It’s just that most people need time to get their name into the public consciousness. In this case, however, she might be okay, because her shift in loyalty will likely cause a stir, and expedite the process. It’s not impossible that this was her intention all along; stepping up to become Tinaya’s biggest fan just so she can popularize herself without getting lost in a sea of other candidates. There is no limit to the number of people who can be on the ballot. One year in history, there were thirty-one names in total, which caused a division, and ultimately made it difficult for the winner to feel like he earned it, but there was nothing he could have done to stop it.
Avril has a point, that Tinaya did more for the ship before becoming First Chair than she has in the last two and a half years in this position. Now she kind of wishes that she could say something to the people—to make them promises about what she’ll do for them in the future. But it’s too late for that now. It would be construed as campaigning, or actually be rightfully considered campaigning, and she’s always agreed with that policy on principle, even before she worked for the government. The people have the right to trust that their leaders care more about the happiness and stability of the state than their own self-interest. She still believes that, but at least a campaign would give her something to do. This period of peace barely stumbled even when Tamm was ousted. Maybe that’s what she’s worried most about; that people will elect her opponent only because they’re bored.
But now she has a new opponent, with a different take on how things should be done. It is logical to presume that there are others who feel as Avril does. In fact, Avril probably wouldn’t be here today if she didn’t put out feelers to see what others were thinking. She knows the voters well. She’s built her career upon. She would do a good job if elected. No, Tinaya has nothing to worry about. A win for either one of them would be a win for Extremus. She can’t say the same thing about the other four candidates currently on the ballot, but this one is good people. And right now, it’s time for civility, and most importantly, brevity. There is no need to drag this conversation out. She stands up, and offers her hand. “Thank you for informing me. Good luck on your future endeavors.”
Avril stands up, and shakes Tinaya’s hand. She appears to want to breathe a sigh of relief that Tinaya didn’t jump over the desk, and start ripping Avril’s hair out, and start chewing on it, but she’s worried that this is a trick.
“Really, it’s fine, Miss Kurosawa. Never let anyone feel that you’ve made the wrong decision. I look forward to hearing your ideas, because—forgive me for being blunt—no matter who wins, any good ideas will see the light of day.”
Now Avril’s even more scared, as is Hozan Peck. “Careful, Chairwoman...”
Tinaya needs to backpedal a little. “Don’t worry, either of you. I’m not going to tell the populace that anything you can do, I can do better. That’s just what I’m telling you. I mean, not better, just also. They’ll vote for who they want to vote for, but if I end up winning again, I’m not going to ignore a good idea just because it came from someone else. That would be...unfair to the people. I should stop talking.”
“You were on the line,” Hozan warns, standing up as well, “but you didn’t cross it.” He turns to face Avril to reiterate, “she didn’t cross it.” Now it’s going to be harder for Avril to use this interaction against Tinaya in the future. Thank you, Hozan Peck.
Avril closes her eyes, and nods. “Good luck to you too.” She taps on her watch, and disappears.
Tinaya scratches at the back of her neck. “I do need to be more careful.”
Hozan pulls a portable drive out of his bag, and hands it to her. “It’s a VR simulation filled with ethically questionable scenarios.”
“I’ve done these all before.” It’s required in school, and as a condition for her role as First Chair. Virtual reality is a great way to teach people concepts in literally any conceivable environment without going through the trouble of actually building that environment. It’s especially helpful on ships, where resources are limited, and space is at a premium.
“They’re new programs, created by the next generation of programmers and designers. You apparently need a refresher anyway. They’re what the other candidates will be experiencing in the coming months.”
“Thanks. There’s always more to learn.”
He nods. “Goodbye, Chairwoman Leithe.” Most people don’t call the First Chair Chairwoman or Chairman, but some prefer the sharpness of morphologically shorter language. He teleports away.
That night, Avril does as she warned, and announces her intentions, shocking many. As the broadcast is running, Tinaya’s doorbell chimes again, but she’s in her stateroom now. She finds Arqut on the other side of the door. “I just heard, I’m sorry.”
“I’m fine,” she replies sincerely. “If I lose, I would be glad it was her.”
“You won’t lose, not once we institute the plan.”
“What’s the plan,” Tinaya asks, emphasizing the words just like him, as if there’s something special about this particular plan, whatever it is.
“I wasn’t joking last year; I do love you, and I think you don’t absolutely detest my company either. If you would be willing, we could boost your polling with news of a new relationship. They’ll forget all about the other candidates within a week. Now, I know you don’t feel as strongly about me, but I think that we have to do something to respark people’s interest in your. Is that even a word, respark? Anyway, as I was say—
She pulls him into a hug “Let’s do it. But not just as part of some kind of plan. I’m sick of being alone, and I’m sick if you avoiding me.”

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