Taken from novella thought lost to a file crash years ago, unearthed on a flash drive in my apartment as we began the moving process to our new townhouse.
President Roger Campeau was elected by a razor-thin majority, nearly a mere plurality. The elections that brought Bush, Obama, and Clinton to the Oval Office were tainted by accusations of impropriety, and so the several states ratified the Thirtieth Amendment this past summer. The elimination of the Electoral College in favor of a straight popular vote was intended to end the accusations of pandering to the base of parties, as well as to streamline the voting process. It gave way, instead, to bloc voting along geographical lines, and the ability of special interests to sway the election to favor a man who some had serious misgivings on, including Alex.
“Thinking about how to fix this mess?” a voice asked the middle-aged advisor to the President.
Alex turned and saw Paul Powell. Older, brusque-looking, with silver hair and a square jaw, Powell had been the Under-Secretary of Education since Campeau’s inauguration. His boss, Myranda O’Connell, had been dismissed by Campeau after a heated exchange, and Powell knew that meant O’Connell had been subsequently arrested, charged with sedition, and carted off to some secret prison in Utah or Nevada. Campeau’s paranoia set in shortly after taking office, and he began an almost Stalin-like purge of the Cabinet. Powell managed to survive the first wave, and so he kept a low profile so as to avoid being detected.
“Yes,” Alex answered with a softness that belied his fears. Alex Moratov, a Russian-born immigrant, had been one of Campeau’s low-level campaign advisors, and had seen flashes of what he knew to be madness. An explosive fit of rage at one campaign stop ended in the breaking of a campaign volunteer’s arm. Another incident resulted in Campeau setting fire to the tent of a homeless man, resulting in his death from third-degree burns. Campeau’s handlers did a fine job of keeping this from the press, and it served him well as Campeau’s center-right agenda curried favor within the Republican establishment. However, even the GOP’s most elitist-minded benefactors understood the threat Campeau represented, but the Law of Unintended Consequences reigned under the Thirtieth Amendment, and now the nation was stuck with Campeau, for better or worse.
“You know he dissolved the Congress today,” Powell said with a quake in his voice. Campeau’s executive orders had been erratic, but this morning saw an epic struggle begin when, with the stroke of a pen, Campeau suspended the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and declared the United States to be, in essence, a fiat dictatorship.
“I know,” Alex responded as he continued to look out the window. The Capitol was eerily quiet, and there was little activity around the National Mall. Traffic flowed like any other day, and business was conducted as it normally would be conducted. Who cared if the freedoms that this nation had come to take for granted had been completely usurped? As once done by Benito Mussolini, Campeau had take such a cue and manage to get the “trains to run,” as it were.
“We need to act soon,” Powell urged his colleague. “This madness is becoming unstoppable.”
Alex turned to face Powell. The sun beamed through to show a semblance of an aura around him. His bald head looked like one of the icons that Powell had seen on his trip to Greece. The Russian’s attitude towards this whole business had been no-nonsense, but it was also a slow grind. At some point, Alex had to face reality; the timetable to begin removal of the problem in the Oval Office had to be pushed up. “Yes, I know. The President is seeing enemies around every corner.”
“His doctors say it is caused by severe syphilis,” Powell conceded. “How do we tell the people that their President has gone insane?”
“We don’t,” Alex retorted. “We simply remove the problem from the mechanism.”
“You mean – “ Powell said as he began to speak of the unthinkable.
“No, there will be no bloodshed. There are alternatives, fortunately.”
“Every dictator begins with a sense of unbearable loss.” Alex said while fighting to keep down his accent. The Petrograd-born technocrat understood, better than most, what Campeau may have been feeling to lead to this paranoia. “Augustus began with the murder of his father. Napoleon began with the issue surrounding his height. Stalin began with severe abuse. Hussein began with the beating of himself and his mother. And so on, and so on. Campeau must have had such a loss. Somewhere, someone or something shaped him.”