Solar Storm 19

Harrington House remained one of the most secure locations in the galaxy. It was even more secure than Tetrarch Thrall’s private seaside residence on Clarion. Or, so Chancellor Cole had been told. She had never even been to Clarion.

Unlike Thrall’s private residence, Harrington House was public, at least up to a point. The mansion had been designed with the idea that tours would be conducted on the lower floors and in some of the offices. Upstairs and other parts of the mansion were off limits to the public.

And it was indeed a mansion. Bigger than the White House, from where the idea had been taken, it was a five story monstrosity of a residence and offices, complete with several subbasements.

It served as the home of the Planetary Republic’s Chancellor, as well as providing office space for a large portion of the Executive Branch.

Right now, five years into her six year term, Elsa Cole wished for the privacy of someplace like Thrall’s home. The Republic indeed had several getaways where the Chancellor could retire, away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city if she so desired. But during these trying times, Cole thought, she never really had an opportunity to visit any of them. Who could go on vacation when there was a war to run?

Thank God for her husband Paul, she thought. Paul was the calm voice of sanity in a whirlwind world of politics.

A medical professor—and yes, he would tell anyone who asked, real people still needed medical training despite the proliferation of doc bots—he gave up his career when she was elected Chancellor and moved into Harrington House with her.

He was her unofficial but completely trustworthy counselor. He often sat in on meetings, or listened to her recount what happened at events he was unable to attend. He comforted her when she grieved, especially over the loss of young soldiers who died following her orders. He served as a venting board for the times she unleashed invective she never dared utter at someone in public.

In short, he was her soul mate. He had that rare male quality of actually listening to someone.

That was probably what she liked the most about Dr. Paul Cole, Elsa thought to herself. He listened more than he talked, unlike most politicians.

This morning, one such politician was scheduled to meet her. Hector Fuente waited outside the door of her office. Hector was a representative from Pearl, and he was the leader of the Prim Morals and Societal Restitution Party. Everyone called them the Morals Party, for short.

Cole sighed, partly in exhaustion even at this early hour of the morning and partly in annoyance. How she wished the Republic would have adopted the United State’s two party system. But somehow, that structure only seemed to have worked effectively back there. One American party or the other would absorb fractious groups and remain in power over the years. Sometimes their position on issues would swap back and forth over time. For political historians, few countries were more interesting.

But, the Planetary Republic opted for the much more common multi-party system. Cole’s party had long been a powerhouse in the Republic. She was the leader of the Planetary Libertarian Party. The basic tenants her party espoused included minimalist government within clearly identified roles, low taxes, and basically ensuring government stayed out of the way in people’s lives.

The PLP remained very popular, and usually drew a majority of votes during elections. But they were often forced to pull together a ruling coalition in Parliament. In the last election, before the war, the Morals Party drew enough votes that the PLP had to include them in their coalition.

And they’ve been a pain in my side ever since, Elsa thought to herself.

She declined to speak such negative statements out loud, especially here in a public space. That could wait until tonight, in her bedroom, when she would unload all of it on poor Paul who would listen in silence for minutes, hours if need be. Then he would offer some small word of advice or encouragement, and they would drift off to sleep.

But sleep remained hours away, and Fuente was the first irritant in a long day ahead.

The doorman opened the entrance to the Ruby Room and Fuente walked in. Cole stood up from her desk and came around to shake his hand. There were formalities to keep.

The Ruby Room was the formal office for the Chancellor of the Planetary Republic. Here bills were signed, and if she needed to address the citizens by holo she usually did so seated here at her desk. It was also the ideal place to meet dignitaries and politicians.

Everybody would be careful what they said here, because PLAIR officially monitored conversations. Things said were on the record. This would be an uncomfortable quasi-public meeting, and they both knew it.

“How are you, Hector? So good to see you.”

Politicians and their lies, Cole thought ruefully as she shook the man’s hand.

“Elsa.”

She noted he did not return the lie. Very well, it would be a rough morning. But what morning had not been rough since this war started?

She directed him to the leather chairs in one corner of the office where they could talk without a desk between them. He sat down with her and came right to business.

“I understand you rescinded the penalties for cursing in the military.”

Cole nodded, expecting this.

“Admiral Severs felt it harmed morale while in the process of taking over a League quadrant. I agree with him.”

Fuente sat ramrod straight in his chair.

He’s got his back up, Elsa thought. And, he knows he’s in the right.

“This measure passed in Parliament, Madame Chancellor. It is not your right, or his, to rescind it.”

Cole responded, ready for the attack, and verbally parried.

She said, “I understand the good intentions behind the measure. We do want to instill moral fiber in our young, especially those serving the Republic in times of war. However, in the heat of battle it seems grossly unfair to penalize those people we are asking to put their lives on the line for us.

“Imagine getting shot, Representative Fuente, and letting loose a curse word. Now you are not only injured, you have to forfeit part of your pay.

“I have agreed with the Admiral’s request. This is the man who is there, who is in the field, and he is the one telling me the troops who are fighting and dying for us do not like it. It is hindering their ability to fight.”

And when the public hears about that, Cole thought, they’ll back me on this.

Fuente snorted, openly doubting the statement. Cole ignored him and continued.

“I am authorizing the Admiral to suspend the measure under the War Powers Act, which gives me broad discretion in such matters. You may take it up in Parliament during our next session, but I will assert my authority in this matter, especially when it comes at the behest of our Fleet Admiral.”

Fuente said, “Your Fleet Admiral, Chancellor. We all know you personally promoted Severs to the rank. It’s no surprise you two would work together to undermine the will of Parliament.”

Cole nodded. She said, “That is true, he is my Admiral. He was, and is, the best man for the job at the moment.”

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly in an effort to lower her blood pressure.

She said, “We decided at the very formation of this Republic that only one person at a time should run wars, Mr. Fuente. The people elected me to fill that role.

“I decided that just like other well-intentioned laws in the past—America’s experiment with Prohibition comes to mind—this one was causing far more trouble than it was worth. Maybe after the war we’ll see about reinstating it. But for now, military personnel will not be financially penalized for cursing.”

Fuente glared at her, but refused to say much else. The fact anything stated in this room would be public record probably caused him to guard his words, and for that Cole felt grateful.

When he left she thought, One down and several more to go.

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