The Drake Given Fangs In Benghu (27.5)

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50th of the Aster’s Gloom, 2030 D.C.E

Solstice Dominance — Solstice City, People’s Peak

A sharp cry broke the lingering silence in the chamber and sent its occupants cringing.

“What is it that compels you to fail so constantly?” Daksha Kansal shouted at the top of her lungs at the delegation, the room now a quarter empty compared to its attendance in her previous address. Her voice boomed across the room even without a microphone.

It was the first thing out of her mouth when she took the podium in the Council chamber, and nobody dared to speak over her or to assert their basic dignity in the face of her insults.

Most of the Councilors were juniors on their first terms in office, voted in a handful of years ago when the Council swelled in size; many had resigned after the speech of the 45th, bowing under the political pressure they were not trained to handle.

They had run for office on their dreams and ideas, but even simple proposals now carried with them terrifying responsibility ever since the Nochtish invasion.

“How much longer will you put your offensive, denigrating parliament circus before the people’s needs? When does this chamber plan to vote favorably on our survival?”

Though she knew that this Council wouldn’t last beyond the day, her words still took on a helpless, furious tone, open in its frustration. She couldn’t help but hate the position that they had put her in by following their political playbooks to their dying last. Those within the audience that knew, could see their insight plainly in her voice and expression.

Throughout her furies Councilor Yuba’s Liberal bloc, for once united almost wholly behind Kansal’s words and actions, stood in rapt attention, rubbing their hands together. Within them, a microscopic minority shuddered with the knowledge of the events likely to transpire that evening. Yuba was one who was shuddering. He avoided her gaze.

The Collaborator faction was just as quiet and just as shaken despite being in the dark about the true purpose of the night’s deliberations. After a wave of panicked reform in the mid 2020s they essentially ruled the Council. Proportional representation meant that the large territories of the south, historically more self-centered and rebellious, could put into power a mass of contrarian Councilors who thought they knew best for the Socialist Dominances as a whole. This mass allowed them much more room to work. They could pick up people from the Liberal bloc who agreed with them and supersede the weakened “Hardliner” bloc that housed the remnants of Daksha’s old communists (and a motley crew of anarchists, social-democrats and other similar artifacts with them).

The Collaborator’s 4-year-long dynasty was fast approaching its end due to the events of the month. After the Nochtish invasion, the Collaborator heartland was lost. Its first flailing attempt to save it claimed 50,000 and more Ayvartans in Tukino. Latest in a series of half-baked and disastrous Collaborator attempts to pull everything back together was the preparation of an offensive in the lower Dbagbo region. Though the Council had given itself military responsibility, they lacked the expertise. The Dbagbo offensive was already going poorly and had cost them significant credibility. Though everyone was appalled by the results and the farce that led to them, initiative was one thing the Council seemed unable to muster regardless of the circumstances — unless strong-armed toward it.

Yuba cordially provided the strong-arm by politely inviting Kansal to speak again.

Daksha Kansal was visibly furious, strangling the edge of the podium and shouting herself hoarse at the bowed mass of the council before her. “I warned you that our military was not yet in the proper shape to fight the Nochtish forces! I outlined several steps that had to be taken in order to repair our forces and prepare for battle! Perhaps I was not clear enough, but those steps were to be taken before a major offensive operation, not during or after! They were to be taken in whole and not piece-meal! It is completely ridiculous to think that a partially mobilized peace-time force can be ordered to start a general offensive!”

Kansal was a monument in the podium. She sported the full dress uniform of the KVW, prominently red with black and gold highlights, wearing a Marshal’s pins (for there were no unique pins for the Warden) and her medals, including the very first Hero of the Socialist Dominances medal ever produced; but instead of an officer’s peaked hat she wore a black side-cap, adorned with the hydra on either side of the head, and the hammer and sickle in front. Her long hair was still mostly black, her skin still a deep brown. A few wrinkles graced her eyes. Tall, slim, athletic and well-proportioned, Daksha still looked vibrant in her early 50s. Her hair was tied up in a neat bun behind her head, and a dab of red lipstick and some skin powder gave her a refined appearance that night that was rarely seen.

“None of the reserve divisions committed to this action were at full preparedness! You sent them to battle with basically no plan but to move forward against strong enemy positions! Across a river! Against Nochtish aircraft and tanks when Rhino’s reserves were almost bereft of equivalent forces! Your operation was pointless and unnecessary. You made a show of commanding our armed forces to seem as if you had the competence to continue to govern. Now you have ground away troops that are necessary to respond when — and I say when, mind you, not if — Nocht breaks through Dbagbo’s front line! It was this same kind of poorly thought massed attack that ended with our forces trapped in the heinous Tukino pocket! Clearly you were not paying attention then and neither are you now!”

On the far left of the room, the “Hardliners” snickered. They were only ones in the room with a reason to be smug. They knew this censure was not directed at them. They had abstained from every little congressional disaster that had unfolded the past week.

“Years ago, my office conceded to a peace-time draw-down in military forces and a restructuring of our military and political bureaucracy in light of the crisis brought on by the Akjer treason among others. Back then I cooperated with your operations to the fullest extent. I conceded to the Council in good faith, knowing that some action had to be taken in case of counterrevolutionary elements. I was foolish to believe then that you wouldn’t exploit my concessions as you do now!” Daksha said. She pointed a finger specifically at the rightmost set of seats where Collaborators twiddled their thumbs.

Though it could not compare to the tragedy unfolding now, from 2024 through 2026, little more than a decade after the establishment of the SDS, a wave of very serious troubles arose after several political leaders, including in the Council, in the Military and in the Civil sectors, were implicated in foreign-sponsored treason and potential sabotage. This crisis ended in the severing of ties with Nocht, the covert beginning of of interventions in Cissea and Mamlakha, the purging of individuals and the restructuring of the Council and Military in the wake of losing several top officials to KVW-supported investigations.

To its credit the Council responded quickly to the crisis — to its detriment, the response was aimless and in the worst possible faith. After thorough investigations and several executions, the reform process was run away with. Council was broken up into two chambers, one powerless. Proportional representation was introduced and swelled the Civil chamber in the Collaborator’s favor. The KVW lost its ability to dictate the policy of the Territorial Army. The Council lashed out at anything that could compete with its authority in a desperate bid to preserve itself against future treason. It was senseless.

Yuba’s faith in democracy led him, like a child, to walk hand in hand with that chaos, and to follow it to most decadent depths. His belief was only recently shaken. All of this situation still felt alien — to look back on his decisions with such regret frightened him.

Daksha continued speaking, her tone more moderated. “Ayvarta can never and will never be a ‘utopia without arms’ in a world where Nocht exists. I demand that this Council to rescind demilitarization, fully remobilize all reserve military assets, and return to the Military Council the command of the so-called Territorial Army. Put that to a vote!”

Daksha turned sharply around, walked off the podium and abruptly quit the room, leaving behind a dreadful and long quiet that the Liberal bloc did not move to disturb. A resurgence of activity was slow to come. The Collaborators, normally at the front of any motion, were at first in disarray. Their leader, Arthur Mansa, an old veteran of the Civil War and one of the founding members of the SDS, had vanished to Tambwe to support its regional Council, presumably at the behest of his son, who had only recently ascended to the regional council and now faced an invasion. His subordinates, perhaps not as capable as he may have imagined, seemed afraid to take any measure until he could be reached for consultation. This had put them a step behind everyone else in Council.

In addition, when his orders did come, they had inspired disaster after disaster lately.

As such the Collaborators had a crisis of leadership, and with them, the Council.

Little conversations started to rise in volume around the room. Dozens of debates in miniature sprang up as everyone thought of what to do. People stood up and crossed the room to discuss with counterparts they knew personally or to fetch their aides.

Finally, Councilman Yuba stood up with a few of the Liberals and took the stage.

With his appearance the Council quieted and returned to a semblance of order.

“Comrades; the most recent source of your contention has been the fact that the Standing Procurement Plan for the year has already been passed and approved by the central agencies.” He said. Around the room a packet started to make the rounds, passed around by Liberal aides. “However I have gone through great effort to compile Warden Kansal’s proposals and incorporate them into a quarterly Supply Bill that can be easily added to the Procurements Plan. I propose that we put this measure on the table and hold it to a vote. Let us end this debate once and for all. Give the Warden the courtesy of her proposal standing or falling, in whole, on its merits! This Council needs an immediate resolution to this issue.”

Only part of the room was aware that regardless of the outcome of this vote, the Civil Council they had known for the past 4 years was issuing its final motions.

It was not uncommon for Liberals to craft bills — everyone had projects to do. Most often, National bills were extensions of regional projects, because in a big way most of the blocs were very regional. Collaborators came from the south; Liberals largely from the North; Kansal’s “Hardliners” the few representatives voted in from Solstice itself. What was strange was for Yuba to go out of his way to introduce what seemed like a KVW project, and a radical, suspicious one at that. However, everyone was under too much stress to consider it deeply. Surprise supply bills happened; it wasn’t ominous by itself. In this instance it was easy to believe Yuba was just doing them the courtesy of getting the KVW out of everyone’s way. Liberals were known to be fairly diplomatic in that way.

Without further deliberation the machinery of the Council started to digest the bill.

Across the chamber, Whips ran around their blocs gathering up the votes and holding debates in miniature. There were problems abound — many of the junior collaborators for example had been “brought up” the past few years to believe that Demilitarization was good and that ceding power to Daksha Kansal’s faction in any way was essentially steps toward a coup. They didn’t say this, nobody said it directly, but their insinuations could only add up to that one picture. Many of the Liberals also thought this way in some form.

Among the Liberal bloc many wondered what had gotten into Yuba lately, but most of them deferred to his authority as a veteran. Even the older juniors believed themselves to lack the seasoned dedication of the few Council elders. In any case a unique feature of the Liberals that fateful night was being aware enough of the world outside the numbing labor of legislation to be more afraid of Nocht than a phantom coup by Daksha Kansal.

Among the few Hardliners there was no Whip and a Whip wasn’t necessary. They normally abstained from these kinds of votes but they would vote unanimously in favor of Kansal’s proposal. Many of them were ex-Military Councilors from when the Military Council actually had a say in government. They had run successfully in Solstice after the abolishing of the Military Council’s votes, and established themselves as the local political force.

After an hour’s worth of reading and discussing the plan, the fated instant arrived.

Votes were gathered, counted, and to a collective silence Kansal’s bill failed again.

Yuba took to the podium once again, this time alone. He turned his head from one side to the other, casting a hard, serious look around the chamber before speaking.

“Comrades, I used to believe strongly that any proposal made in this chamber was a proposal for the good of the country. Years ago I supported the reforms made after the Akjer incident. I feared that our beautiful nation could be toppled by a few tainted ideologues. I feared the militarization of our country, and how members in the military and the civil sectors had conspired to profit off our secrets and security and to collude with foreign powers. I feared the great power that officers and civil servants had gained.”

Around the room there were whispers, wondering what the point of this was. Kansal’s package had failed and it was time to move on to the next piece of business. There was a refugee housing bill for example that needed to be properly torn up among them.

“I learned to fear many things,” Yuba continued, “and to see this Council as a protecting light against the sources of that fear. I thought through our dialog here nothing could fail to be resolved — and I thought anyone who refused our dialog was being extremist. I was wrong. We were the extremists. We went to extremes to see ourselves as infallible. We went to extremes to see our own comrades as enemies. We went to extremes for our own power and rationalized to ourselves that what we did for ourselves was for the good of all. We went to the extremes of self-delusion and self-grandeur. We were like children playing a game with ourselves, holding our rules as sacred. Yes, we kept food going and kept the rain out. But as a whole we have regressed in our politics and organization.”

Yuba gathered up his papers on the podium, and then threw them away.

“The Socialist Dominances of Solstices was imperfect when it was founded, and our self-centered bickering has rendered it now near to destruction. I abide that project no longer. I am calling for a Motion Of No Confidence against the 7th National Council of the Socialist Dominances of Solstice in light of the defeat of Supply Bill AG-49-#1216.”

Thus the killing blow, that had been so carefully prepared, was finally struck.

Across the chamber there was gasping and the turning of heads. Men and women stood up and shouted immediately that this was impossible, that it couldn’t be done. But Yuba and his handpicked conspirators knew that it could be done, it simply had never been done before. Defeating a Supply Bill was one of the potential ways in which a Motion Of No Confidence could be introduced. After that there would be a vote to dissolve government, appoint an interim government, and announce special elections. All of this was constitutional protocol.

There was in fact, in the Constitution, even a protocol to reinstate a Premier, though the office of the Premier was slashed after the death of Lena Ulyanova. It had never been amended out of the Motion of No Confidence. Council had been too arrogant.

“Comrades! Order! This is your duty now! Do you think this government is worthy to continue? Within your hearts, if you truly believe this, then vote! It is that simple! But I beg of you; if you have even the slightest doubt, then this Council must be shredded. Without a will of iron our country will sink.” Yuba said. His face was stone, but in his heart of hearts he thought of himself as pleading to them. This was a final chance to absolve himself of the guilt and infamy of history. He was taking on a great burden now.

Slowly the Council quieted from an outcry to a murmur. Councilors regrouped and with their faces sullen, their eyes downcast, they readied themselves for the pivotal vote.

Everyone knew this would be the moment of truth. But there was no more climactic drama to be found. Collaborators started to split up among territorial lines. Liberals held together for once. Hardliners announced they supported the No Confidence motion completely, and they announced it before anyone else had a word in. Yuba, having called the motion, painstakingly acted as whip and went to each of the blocs. There was no trembling in his voice or in his movements. His bodily actions were like a voice in flesh, carrying out a fact; one did not shirk from facts. One just spoke them neutrally. That was his body, his mind, his voice, as he tallied the votes for the destruction or salvation of the 7th National Council. He was neutral; as Liberals often prided themselves in being. Objective, rational, emotionless.

His heart cried, however, from the stress of his duty. But it had to be this way.

Yuba had always been a firm believer in the process, in the strength of democracy, in its ability to rehabilitate humanity. Over the past few weeks, he told himself, he had been neutral. He bided his time and picked his people silently and carefully while the Council made itself look weak, foolish, incompetent. He had not instigated that. They had done it all alone. They reaped what they sewed. Doubt and disillusion was at its peak among the Collaborator councilors, and now he had given them the way out, one way or another.

There would be no more climactic drama. No more back and forth. One side had won.

Votes were tallied and the consequence read aloud — the 7th National Civil Council was dissolved, and deliberations began on an interim government. There was no better idea being floated than that which had already hung in the air before: assign Daksha Kansal a Premiership alongside a small interim Council with a mandate to resist Nocht at all costs.

Special elections would not be held; with the Collaborators dismissed, nobody could vote them in again because the territories of Adjar and Shaila were lost and perhaps soon Dbagbo and Tambwe would fall in addition. Yuba knew that for a time this meant the effective end of Ayvartan democracy as they knew it. It was all up to Daksha Kansal now.

It had to be this way, he told himself. Socialism would withstand it or fall.

“It is time then,” Yuba called out, “the Council yields, to Premier Daksha Kansal.”


 

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