The Victim

Chapter Three: Ascent

Never, ever, ever

Natdec’s regional commissar comes to me a couple of hours after the press conference. He’s distressed, although he tries to hide it. Now that his master is gone, he doesn’t know what to do. Nobody at natdec wants to take responsibility for the strike, specially now. “… so what do you say if we reach some middle ground and stop this strike?” he says to me at my office. “No,” is all I reply. His face turns pale. “Wh-what do you mean no? I thought you—” “That was before my uncle died. Now terms have changed.”

He looks at me like he’s seeing me for the first time. “You’ll keep your position, don’t worry. As long as you help me get the union heads to bend the knee.” He nods. “We’re meeting at the conference room on the floor above, at 4. Be there.” He nods again and says “Thank you, thank you,” then rushes out of my office. A few minutes later I meet the head of the postal office union, our secret ally. I reward his support with the only pay raise across the unions. We seal the deal with a handshake, making him a hero among his own.

When the clock strikes four, I enter the conference room. It’s packed with confused and scared faces. There’s union leaders and secretaries, national union representatives, natdec commissars… There’s a smell of expensive suits, coffee and tobacco that disgusts me. I sit at the head of the table and take a good look at them. “I was glad to know you wanted to meet me,” I start, “and reach a middle ground. I have been asking for precisely this. I offered good conditions to end the strike, but you wouldn’t even speak to me. You all—” The head of the garbage collection union lets go a loud “Ha!” interrupting me.

“Hey,” I say to him. “We’re not among reporters here, you don’t have to act. I know someone very stubborn didn’t want you to give in to my demands. But today is only the fourth day of protests and what do we have.” I enumerate each item on the list by extending a finger from my left hand. “An angry mob that attacked me personally and other riots; fires out of control that have actually killed people; trash lying where people used to walk; massive traffic jams—” “You can’t blame it all on us!” protests some union secretary. I look at my rock, and she adds the secretary to the blacklist. “Oh, but I can,” I reply smiling. “This… disgusting personal vendetta against me didn’t work.” Several people roll their eyes, like I care. “Now I want unconditional surrender.”

“Who the hell do you think you are?” asks the head of the garbage collection union. “D-do you think this is the f-wording world war, a-and you are the H-man forcing the allies to sign some bulls-word armistice in a boxcar?” Of course I am, except I’m not as crazy as him. “Are you seriously comparing me to the H-man? I don’t think you understand your situation. Look outside! Look at the social media! People hate you and the professionals you represent. I have seen several videos before this meeting that I thought were very interesting.”

I turn on the tv and send a video to it from my phone. A fireman delivers a speech at a high-school while kids throw insults and food at him until the principal shuts down the speech. “If you spent just a tiiiny bit of time online,” I say, “you would know your firemen, cops, garbagemen and other traitors are at an all-time popularity low. People wonder why your salaries are so high and there are so many of you if you don’t do s-word.” I stand up and point my finger at the smug union leader who insulted me. “So don’t mistake for a second who has the upper hand here.” He opens his mouth to reply when the head of the postal union cuts him. “My union is ready to get back to work.”

The people present start whispering, alarmed. “Thank you,” I say. “I’ll offer you fair conditions for your gesture.” “We want to get back to work as well,” says the firemen union head. They’re all suddenly reasonable negotiators. However, I’m not. I cut down their salaries even below what I originally intended, to show them what happens when you mess with me. All but one agrees, the garbage collection union head. He insults me again and leaves the conference room. Fine by me.

I smile and leave the room, victorious. The impeachment committee is reviewing evidence and voting in sixteen minutes. I get on the limousine and take my rock and my friend from school with me. I communicate my truce to the senators I can find. They all seem pleased and express their support like the faithful weathervanes they are. However, I can’t reach the committee members, who are in a private session. Finally, the time for the vote comes. Reporters, senators and spectators all join in the occasion.

And there’s me. Before the vote, I’m given permission to say a few things. I step to the podium. It just feels so familiar by now. “These past few weeks… Well, these past few days have been the hardest of my life. Four days ago, unions rose against me in what looked like an unstoppable strike. I was publicly accused of terrible crimes I had nothing to do with. And just yesterday… yesterday I lost my beloved uncle, after he confessed to being guilty of the charges I’m now facing. I won’t lie to you, it’s been tough.”

I stop for a few seconds and compose myself, then speak building up energy with each sentence. “But I won’t stand here and cry. I’m tired of that. No, people get a raw deal all the time, and I’m no different. Briefly before I entered this room I signed an agreement with the heads of the unions to cease. this horrendous. general strike!” I strike the table at each stop. The room claps and cheers, even the reporters. “Now, this may be the last thing I do as governor. If that’s so, I’ll be glad to have served our great state and fought with all my strength. Thank you.”

The air is filled with genuine applause. I smile as I walk back to my seat. After tedious impeachment proceedings, the vote starts. I try to look calm as the senators vote. Then I see the result. I’ve won. I’ve survived this. Somehow, at an enormous cost, I’ve won. The impeachment action against me is dead. There will probably be an investigation, but it will crash into flames because all evidence will be “lost.” I exit the room, smiling as I hadn’t in a long time. Outside the vultures are waiting to ask me questions for their articles.

Once it’s all over and I’m back at my apartment with my friend from school and my rock, celebrating with drinks, I speak to them very seriously. “Now, listen please. This. This can’t happen again. Never, ever, ever, under any circumstance. Do you understand what I’m saying?” They nod. This has been the worst experience of my adult life. And I intend to repay entirely those who took part in it.