1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT — snippet 39

 

1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 39:

 

 

            “I did not bring up the matter to thrash a dead horse, Michael,” Francisco said mildly. “Whether you were right or not, we may never know. What we do know—can be almost certain about, anyway—is that come February 22nd the Crown Loyalists will win the election. On a national level. Not in every province, of course.”

            Frank shook his head. “Christ, that’s not much more than two months from now.”

             “Well, that’s the day the election happens,” said Nasi, shrugging. “But in a country as big as the USE, and with the facilities we have available, it will take several weeks for the results to come in and be tabulated. We’re not living in your old United States of America up-time where the winner of a national election was usually known by the following day. I don’t expect a winner in our upcoming election to be definitely announced until mid-March. Then, given the realities of travel in the here and now, I can’t see any realistic way the change in government can happen before June.”

            “True enough,” said Mike. “Even in the late twentieth century, it took us two and a half months to go from a presidential election to inauguration day. When the republic was first founded, the time between election and inauguration was four months. We’ll actually be doing quite well if we can inaugurate a new government less than four months after an election on February 22nd.”

            “How sure are you, Francisco?” asked Frank. “It’s not as if we have the kind of polling capabilities that we Americans had up-time.”

            “No. But the methods and techniques we do have available are not so bad. Not when the results are going to be so lopsided.”

            “What’s your estimate?” Mike asked.

            “We will win no more than forty percent of the vote. Perhaps as little as one-third, although not any less. Wettin’s party will win a majority. Not much of a majority—somewhere in the low fifty percentile range—but a clear majority. All the small parties put together will get somewhere between five and ten percent of the vote. Most of those votes, however, will be concentrated in a few provinces.”

            Mike simply nodded. “That’s about what I figure, too, just using my own stick-my-thumb-in-the-wind hunches. How about our strongholds?”

            “Well, that’s the good news. The same strident campaign being waged by the Crown Loyalists that is stirring up fears and uncertainties in most of the provinces is having the opposite effect in regions where we are solidly rooted. It’s just making our supporters angry.”

            Nasi glanced down at his notes. That was just ingrained reflex. By now, he could have recited all of that material in his sleep.

            “The State of Thuringia-Franconia is solid as the proverbial rock. Whatever shakiness might have existed in Thuringia is being offset—more than offset—by the continuing political ramifications of the Ram Rebellion in Franconia.”

            “Ableidinger?” asked Mike, referring to the man generally considered to have been the Ram Rebellion’s principal leader. Even its “mastermind,” according to those hostilely inclined.

            “He’ll run for a seat in the USE Congress from the SoTF. There’s not much doubt in my mind or anyone else’s that he’ll win by a landslide.”

            “About what I figured. And Magdeburg province is probably even more solid than the SoTF. It doesn’t have as big a population, of course, but it’s still one of the bigger provinces in the USE. So we’ll have very solid bases in at least two of the major provinces. And three imperial cities, at least: Magdeburg itself, of course, along with Hamburg and Luebeck.”

            Jackson looked a bit skeptical. “Are you sure about Magdeburg? The city, I mean. Otto Gericke’s the mayor, which means he’ll be sitting in the Senate for it, thanks to these idiot rules we set up. He’s always struck me as pretty stodgy.”

            “We didn’t ‘set up’ those idiot rules, Frank,” Mike said mildly. “We grudgingly agreed to them in the course of a three-way compromise between us and Wettin and the emperor—with the understanding that if we won the election one of the things we’d be pushing for was broadening the Senate and making it more democratic.”

            The USE’s Senate was a peculiar institution, as things presently stood. Something of a cross between a “senate” as normally understood—by Americans, at any rate—and a House of Lords. Each province and imperial city got one seat in the Senate, but the seat had to be taken by whoever was that province or city’s “head of state.” That meant, for instance, that Ed Piazza sat in the national Senate by virtue of having been elected president of the State of Thuringia-Franconia. But, of course, since most of the provincial heads of state in the USE were hereditary positions, that meant the Senate was a heavily aristocratic institution.

            Just to add the icing to the cake—and the cherry—there was the charming twist that Gustav II Adolf, in addition to being the emperor of the United States of Europe, was also two of its senators. Two, not one. He was officially the heads of state of both Pomerania and Mecklenburg, having appointed himself the duke of both provinces when he conquered them.

            “As for Otto,” Mike continued, “in some ways, he is pretty stodgy. All other things being equal, he’d normally be more inclined toward the Crown Loyalists. But all thing are not equal, not even close. First and foremost, Otto’s an architect and he positively adores this city, now that Gustav Adolf gave him free rein to build it up as he likes.”

            “So?”

            Francisco and Mike chuckled simultaneously. “Hell, figure it out, Frank. Magdeburg was sacked less than five years ago. It was only rebuilt this quickly because of us. And who do you think Otto has the most confidence will keep it from being sacked again? Us—or that feckless pack of squabbling noblemen and guildmasters around Wilhelm Wettin? The same people who didn’t do squat to protect the city last time around.”

            Mike swiveled his chair and hazed out the window. “Have you given any thought to your own situation, after the election, Francisco?”

            “Yes, of course.” Nasi hesitated, then chuckled. “Amazingly, though—I am hardly what you’d call indecisive, as a rule—I haven’t been able to come to any conclusions.”

            Mike smiled, still looking out the window. “Hard to give it up, isn’t it?”

            “Excuse me?”

            “Power. Influence.” Stearns waggled his hand. “And—at least for people like you and me—I think what’s probably even harder is giving up the game itself.”

            He swiveled his chair around. “Fortunately, however, the game itself is one thing the loser in an election does not have to concede. Keep in mind, though, that all this may be irrelevant in your case. Wilhelm may want to keep you on in your current position.”

            Francisco shook his head. “You don’t really believe that. I certainly don’t. And it doesn’t matter, in any event. Even if Wettin offered to retain me in my current post, I would decline.”

            “Why?”

            Nasi looked at Stearns squarely. “It is perhaps finally time to say this aloud. I have become quite loyal to you, Michael. Even to your political program, although most of my allegiance is personal. I would find it difficult—impossible, really—to serve Wilhelm Wettin in this same capacity. I don’t dislike the man. I don’t even distrust him, within limits. He’s simply… not you.”

            Jackson grinned. “He has that effect on people, doesn’t he?” He hooked a thumb at Stearns. “It’s why I soldiered on as his secretary-treasurer after he got elected president of our mine local.”

            “Well, thanks,” Mike said. “But you don’t need to feel any obligation, Francisco.”

            Nasi laughed. “’Obligation’ is not really the word. The truth is, I enjoy working for you. First, because I’ve discovered that I am quite good at this work. Secondly, because I’ve eventually concluded—quite to my surprise—that I think the work itself is worth doing. No small leap of faith, that, I assure you. Not for a man like me, raised in the environs of the Ottoman court.”

            Mike smiled. “It must have been a switch, going from a prospective courtier in the Turkish empire to the spymaster of a rabble-rouser.”

            “Yes. On the other hand, it’s a lot less dangerous.”

            Jackson looked startled. “Since when is being a rabble-rouser less dangerous than being part of the establishment?”

            “When the establishment in question is that of Istanbul, a lot safer,” said Nasi. “I hate to think what percentage of the sultan’s advisers wind up at the bottom of the sea with a garrote around their neck. The odds of surviving are no better than our odds in the upcoming election—and no one expects us to actually lose our heads as a result.”

            “No—but it’s not a possibility to overlook, either,” said Mike. “In this day and age, politics is very much a contact sport. About the only difference here in the USE is that we wear gloves. It can still get very rough.”

 

About Eric Flint

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