“Are you going to be there for the voting?” Ethan asked during breakfast.
It was one of those rare occasions when we could all sit together and have a long, quiet, breakfast together. Ethan’s school was on vacations and Kimball had nothing important to run to, and I had cleared most of my day because the congress was voting for their new president that day.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea, if I’m there they will find a way to blame me if the vote doesn’t go their way.”
“Even if you’re not there, people will find a way to blame you if they don’t get their way,” Kimball said, and even if he was trying to make it sound like he was joking, I knew there was truth behind his words.
“Who’s your favorite to win?” Ethan asked, more interested in the process than me.
“The truth is that I have done my best to stay away from the process, I left everything to William and the representatives. He told me that all the candidates met the requisites, and that none of them had ever sided with Emily’s or Faakhir’s ideals.”
“Do you want to go train for a while?” Kimball asked. “I know most of your day is cleared, and if you go to your office or even if you just stay here, you will be thinking about what’s going on in the congress.”
“It will be the same if we go training,” I said.
“Let me assure you that I won’t give you a chance to think about anything but the fight in front of you.”
“If you are going to spar I want to go,” Ethan said, excited. “I don’t have any plans until later.”
“I think that’s a good idea.” I tried to train every day, but most of the time I had to limit my training to a psychic one, since I didn’t have time, and having the chance to test my physical abilities against Kimball was always a good choice.
Ethan kept surprising me, it was clear he had continued training both his mind and body. It wasn’t as easy to fight him as before, and I had to force myself to pay attention to the fight to avoid him. Kimball was right about me needing a distraction, and fighting both of them was a good one, for a couple of hours I didn’t have any chance to think of anything but the challenge they both presented.
When we finally cut the training, I decided to go to my office for a while, I was hoping I would have some news about the election, but they were still on it.
“Why are they taking so long? They already had two months to think about who to choose, this should be a fairly quick process.”
“You know that they were supposed to give a last speech, then they were going to have an hour to vote, and then they have to count the, check them…”
“I know all that, but still, I want to know who I am going to have to face every time I need something from the representatives from now on.”
I still had to wait a couple more hours until William arrived at my door. Since most people trusted William, unlike me, he had been in charge of most of the process, like vetting the candidates and supervising the counting of the votes.
“How was everything?” I asked, desperate for news.
“They elected their president, and let me tell you, I was really surprised to find who they had chosen.”
“If you are trying to drag things to build suspense, cut it, I have no patience left. Who did they pick?”
“Dante? Who is Dante?” I didn’t recognize the name immediately, it took me a moment to go through my memories and remember that candidate, one I never expected them to elect, one I thought they had put there just to fill a quota.
“I’m not sure how he ended being the President, but he is just as capable as any of the others,” William said.
“Are you sure everything was clean?” Kimball said, clearly he was also surprised by the turn of events.
“As far as I can tell everything was by the book, and I couldn’t find any signs of cheating. I already gave the name to the members of the congress, and next week there will be a ceremony to make it official. Since you are the one who is currently holding the title of president, Dante will be following you during this week so he can take over.”
“Great,” I said, sarcastically.
“Once his position becomes official, you won’t have to worry about that part of the government, you will have more time for your projects,” William said.
“That sound good, I hope I will be able to move forward with some of my projects. There’s a lot to do before we can repair all the damage your sister and her husband caused.”
“I know, but at least we are moving fast with the trials, I can say with confidence that most of their collaborators, or at least the worst of them, are already paying for their crimes. And one of the advantages of the crazy laws my sister pushed, is that I have been able to seize their money and properties, since anyone who commits crimes against the Dominion has to pay for it. Getting all that goods and properties will be a great help to rebuild everything they destroyed, and will give us enough budget to help all the countries that were ransacked by them.”
“What I like the most is that all that money falls into my side, and I can use that for my projects. It’s great that we already found the means necessary to increase the production of food, and we also found what we needed to help decrease waste. Soon we will have enough to feed everyone in the Dominion.”
“It seems that everything is going smoothly,” William sounded satisfied.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, and we can’t forget the threat of new rebellions or guerrillas emerging.”
“It’s a sad reality that humans are never satisfied with what they have, and once things start to stabilize, people will start complaining and trying to get more than their fair share,” Kimball said. “Especially with your ideas of distributing goods and services equally among the Dominion, soon the countries that are producing the most will start complaining that their productions is being taken to other countries.”
“Then we will have to work harder on making all countries self sufficient, but that’s a problem for another day. For now I’m most interested in what’s going on right now. Did you talk to Dante already? When am I going to meet him?”
“He will be coming to your office tomorrow morning, we will make the official introduction and you will start working together in the transition of responsabilities,” William explained. “Do you want me to be here to introduce him?”
“I don’t know. What do you think? Will he need you to be here? I know that despite everything that has happened, most of them are still uncomfortable around me.”
“I think it will be best if I’m here, for security reasons.”
“Great, then I will see you tomorrow morning,” I said, dismissing him.
“See you tomorrow,” he said, but I could tell he wasn’t happy about it, he wanted to stay and talk some more, but even if I had accepted the need to be civil with each other, that didn’t mean that I wanted him to be around me more than necessary.
When William exited the room, Ivan walked inside, and I could tell he had been waiting outside.
“Can I talk to you for a moment?” he asked formally, and I knew he had something important to discuss.
“Of course, what’s going on?” I asked, exchanging a look with Kimball.
“Everything is calm right now, and I think this is a good time to ask for a few days off, I need to go back to my country to deal with some issues.”
Since the day the refugees from Aquarium had gotten out, I had been expecting Ivan to leave me. I knew that the only reason he had agreed to work for the Dominion, and then with me, was because that was the only way to fulfill his responsibilities towards his people. I had always known that his first loyalty was to his country, and that as soon as his honor allowed him, he would go back to his old position there.
“Does that means you will go back to your own position? Are you going to leave us?”
“That was the plan, wasn’t it? Help you take control of the Dominion, and once it was safe for Natalia, go back to work as chief of security. But, if you allow me, I would like to keep my position here, with you, I just have to tie some loose ends and find a replacement there, so I can focus on this job full time.”
“You will always be welcome here with me, and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised to hear you want to stay. I thought you were going to resign, and I felt relieved that was not the case. It’s good to know that I have someone I can trust protecting my back,” I could feel the sincerity of his words, and I felt better, because I had been fearing his loyalty was divided, and that his weird attitude the last few days were because he was preparing to leave, it was good to know it was the contrary. Ivan wanted to stay with me, and even if it was selfish of me, I was happy knowing one of the few men I still trusted was going to stay with me. “Take as much time as you need, your position will be waiting for you when you come back.”
“Thank you. When we started this alliance, I thought it would never be anything but a mutually beneficial relationship, I never expected that I would feel like this. During the time I have known you, I have learned to trust you, respect you, I even admire you. I’m still loyal to my country and my people, but I have found that I would serve a greater purpose by staying with you, I will do more good by staying by your side and making sure you can accomplish all your plans.”
“Thank you Ivan, I feel so much better knowing you are on my side, you are one of the few people I really trust.”
“It’s an honor,” Ivan said, leaving the room.
“Are you going to pretend to work for a while? Or are you ready to go home?” Kimball asked once we were alone. He knew how worried I had been about Ivan’s imminent departure.
“Pretending to work is a good description, I’m sure I won’t be able to focus on anything for the rest of the day. Between knowing that Dante will be here tomorrow, and knowing that Ivan wants to stay with me, even if he has to go for a few days, I have a lot on my head. It will be best to go back home and rest for a while, I have a feeling that tomorrow will be a long day and I need a clear mind to face it.”
“An afternoon of relaxation is what you need. Let’s go,” Kimball said, putting his arm around my shoulders and lending me his strength and helping me.
I felt bad leaving the office so early, but the truth was that I haven’t been able to focus all day, and I wouldn’t be any good even if I stayed. Everything was falling into place, and even if I should have been happy about it, I was feeling uneasy. For so long I had lived in the middle of conflict, and now that things were calm, I couldn’t trust it, I was almost convinced that the next day was going to bring me nothing but trouble.
As soon as we arrived, Ethan came to greet us.
“Who was elected?” he asked when he saw us.
“You don’t know?” Kimball asked. “Isn’t it public knowledge by now? I thought you would be glued to the networks, waiting for any news about the election?”
“All they have said is that they already choose the new president, but not who,” Ethan complained.
“It was Dante,” I told him, “not the one we expected.”
“Is that a problem? Why are you so worried?”
“I’m not worried he was chosen. I don’t know why I’m worried, everything is going according to plan, even if Dante is an unknown character, that doesn’t mean he will be a problem.”
“Your mother is worried because she is losing control. You know how much she worries about everything, and now she isn’t in charge, she thinks the other will cause trouble.”
“I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” Ethan said, “the system is designed to work by what the majority wants, and if this new person tries to do something to hurt your plans, you will have William to help you stop him. Even if you don’t trust William, you can trust he will do what’s best for the Dominion. He will never let them do anything that could harm us.”
“Your son sounds just like you,” I told Kimball, smiling.
“Well, he is my son, he is smart and has a good eye, you should listen to him, he knows what he is talking about,” Kimball said.
“Ok, then” I agreed, but none of them believed my words, and they were right, because I couldn’t trust the calm around us, I was still waiting for the storm to hit.
I arrived early to my office the next day. I knew I didn’t have to, but it wasn’t the same as giving the title to William, I had never acted as judge, I had only taken the title of Queen, but it was different with the presidency, I had actually been involved with the Congress, it was a job a had done.
Kimball had offered to spend the day with me again, but I felt it was better if he stayed away, I had even asked the guards that usually stayed by my side if Kimball wasn’t with me to wait outside the door, the only one I had allowed inside was Yoweri, because most people didn’t even notice him, I was confident that they wouldn’t notice his presence. It wasn’t as if I was going to use Yoweri to hurt William or Dante, but it made me feel better to know he had my back, I wanted them to feel safe, but I wanted to be safe as well.
Dante and William arrived mid morning, and for what I heard, they had already been together for a while.
“Good morning Kaiserin,” William greeted me.
“Good morning,” I greeted them both.
“Greetings,” Dante said, his tone reserved.
“Congratulations on getting elected as President,” I said as I studied Dante. He was much older than me or William, even if he was still full of energy. I could tell right away that his careless, even bored attitude was nothing but an act, I could see him studying the room, I even noticed his eyes stopped for a second on the corner were Yoweri was posted, before continuing through the room. I could tell he was a capable man. “I hope you understand the weight of the responsibility you acquired, as the first elected President in years, you have a tough job in front of you.”
“I know exactly what my position is, and I’m ready to do what’s required of me.”
“It’s good to know. Since you were already part of the Congress you know what we have been working on and what’s our objective in the short term. I have all the information of what I have been working on, I know that from now on it’s your job to decide the direction the Congress is going to take, but I would appreciate it if you continued working on some of my proposals.”
“Is this the point in which we start with veiled threats and hidden orders?”
“It’s not a threat,” William was quick to assure him, “is just a simple suggestion. You know my sister made a lot of changes in the laws, everything she could do to give herself unlimited power, and put the rest of the Dominion at a disadvantage. Some of those rules are already out, but there is still a lot of work to do to fix everything.”
“But even if we want to take the Dominion back to what it used to be, we understand we can’t turn time back, everything has changed, and we need to change accordingly,” I explained. “In fact, there are a few things we need to preserve, at least for the time being. Eventually we want to give independence back to the countries, give them the chance to leave the Dominion if that’s what they want, because I know not all the countries were part of the Dominion before Emily took control.”
“Are you really expecting me to believe you are willing to give them back their freedom?”
“We plan to do such a good job that no country will be willing to leave,” William explained.
“That’s why it’s not an option we are willing to give them right away, that option may not even present during your term as president, it may be something for your successor to consider. So let’s not waste our time with the future, let’s focus on the present,” I said as I presented a few documents to Dante. “These are the projects I have planned for the short term. Right now we are using Emily’s property appropriation
law is financing the projects.”
“That’s one of the laws we want to preserve, at least until the trials for treason are finished, we need to take back the money my sister’s followers stole from the Dominion,” William interrupted.
“I guess you already know that budgets need to be approved by congress,” Dante said, taking the documents, but not bothering to check them. “You are supposed to give us an estimation of how much you need to spend, and we decide if the expenses are right, and if we agree with them we give you the money.”
“Well, this year’s budget was already approved by me,” I said. “I made an estimation taking into the account the money we will acquire from the trials, thinking we will be able to recover most of it. If there is a difference between my calculations and reality, we will deal with that when the time arrives.”
“I’m not surprised you already have this year under control, I only hope you understand that next year we will be following protocol.”
“Of course,” I agreed, realizing that Dante was only looking for an excuse to fight, his attitude was defensive, but his demeanor combative. “I guess the next step should be to review the initiatives on the congress’ table, and see how the work is advancing.”
“I’m up to date in all the discussion taking place in both chambers,” Dante said. “But I guess we should review them, just to follow protocol.”
“You have no intention of making this easy, do you? This would be so much easier if you just adjusted your attitude,” I warned.
“We have to work together for the next three years, it would be best if we start with a cordial relationship from the beginning,” William said. “I know things are complicated, but we need to work together to fix them, not make them worse. If Kaiserin and I can leave our differences on the side and work together, you can do the same.”
“It’s clear that you have been working together, there is no reason you can’t be working together.”
“That’s something we don’t need to discuss right now,” I said before William could bring our problem into the open. “What’s important right now is that we need to be professionals. If you are planning on making things difficult, then don’t expect me to bend over to make them easy, this would only result in a battle where no one will win, and the biggest losers will be the citizens of the Dominion. I think that is better if you take the documents I gave you and study them. We can meet again tomorrow and discuss them. It’s clear we won’t get anywhere today.”
“It sounds like a good idea,” William said, “and if you need my help, just call me, I’m willing to do anything to make things easier for you.”
Dante just nodded his agreement, gathered his things and left the office. I already suspected things wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t feel better having my suspicions confirmed, it was one of the few times I had wanted to be wrong.
“Dante will cause trouble,” I told William, who for some reason, was still in my office.
“It’s just the frist day, he is being careful, that doesn’t mean he will be a problem, let’s trust everything will be fine.”
“I hope so, there’s a lot of work to be done, and it will be very hard if we will have to fight every step of the way.”
“I think that once he starts working with us he will realize we are not the enemy, and we would be able to dig the Dominion out of the hole my sister left it in.”
“I hope so. Thanks for bringing him over, I’m sure you have a lot of work to do, I’ll let you go back to it,” I dismissed him, trying to be tactful about it.
“You know that if you need me, I will be here. If you keep having trouble with Dante and need a referee, you can call me, I’ll be here,” William offered before leaving.
That first reunion had been difficult, but the situation didn’t improve during the following meetings while we worked on the transition. Dante suspected every one of my decisions, looked for hidden motives and traps in everything I did. It didn’t take me more than a couple of days to realize that I wouldn’t change his mind with words, so I stopped trying to sway his way of thinking. I trusted that eventually we would realize we didn’t have to be enemies, but even if he didn’t, I had no problem with him, as long as he did his work and looked out for the good of the Dominion.
I knew I couldn’t control Dante, I needed to let him do what he felt was necessary. I knew that I couldn’t be in control of the Dominion forever, and it was important to let the people start making their own decisions, to make their own mistakes. I knew that I couldn’t help but try to minimize his errors and keep them moving forward, but at the end of the day, my time at the front of the Dominion was numbered. In three years the congress would be electing a different president, and it may not be Dante. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be gone by then, or if things would work well enough for me to give up the prime minister position before that, but I still had time before making that decision.
At the end of the week we had a celebration where Dante officially took possession of his new position, William and I were there to confirm him, and promise that we would work together for the Dominion’s best interest. I knew that it was a promise that needed to be done, but I was aware that even as we said the words, Dante had no intention of collaborating with us, he had his own agenda to fulfil.