Stories

Politics as Usual


An old joke in the Federation ends with the punch line “There’s an election going on every day somewhere.” The joke’s not that funny. In fact, pretty much all of the setup has been lost to time, but it starts with “An Intaki walks into a polling station on a Sunday” and at some point the line “What’s with the fedo?” is apparently important. But the lack of humor value isn’t the real reason the joke has been lost. It’s because the punch line has actually become true.




“So, where are we headed today, sir?” Kallen asked her boss.

“A little planet called Paradise,” Fitan said.

Kallen raised an eyebrow. “Paradise? Really?”

He shrugged. “Well, it’s officially Pakhsi III. The natives just call it Paradise. You know, typical local claptrap, just like with Utopia before.”

“I’m sure it’ll be a lovely place.”

“A lovely blasted ball of rock in the middle of nowhere maybe. But they’ve got an election coming up in a little over two weeks and the candidates will need my help.”

“And who are the candidates, sir?”

Fitan tossed her a data pad containing the names of the two men running for the post of planetary governor. “Jidane L’Due, Sociocrat, running on a platform of increasing local industry and expanding infrastructure. Franc Dufrense, Progressor - Sociocrat versus Progressor? How boring - running on a platform of expanding trade and promoting Paradise as a tourist spot.”

Fitan nodded. “It’s a perfect scenario. Two men very much opposed to each other politically. The early polls show they’re pretty close to each other. The ‘undecided’ are just waiting for someone to point them in a direction.”

Kallen nodded. “I doubt it will be too difficult.”

“Probably not. But I hear that Franc is quite a lecher. So wear that low-cut top.”

“Alright.”




Jidane L’Due was one of the young Sociocrats who had recently begun gaining traction within the party. They combined many of the traditional values of the Sociocrats - a belief in a strong, insular Federation - with energetic young ideas - such as L’Due’s position that blue collar workers should have an annual increase in compensation. He was one of the forerunners that would take over the party in the decades to come.

Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t the future yet. “But I can make the future now, Mr. L’Due,” Fitan said. “I have years of experience as a campaign manager. We can punch up your campaign. We can make sure that Dufrense doesn’t have a chance!”

“I already have a campaign manager, Mr. Firac. Besides, it’s a bit late in the game to be coming in, isn’t it?”

Fitan laughed. “Oh no, my good man. You see, the last two weeks of the election period are the most important! Tell me, do you have a debate scheduled with Dufrense?”

“Yes,” L’Due said. “This weekend, actually. It’s the last one before the election.”

“And tell me, what are you going to talk about?”

“Well, my plans for Paradise. We need to focus on building up our economy and providing jobs for all the good people here. We need to make ourselves a leader in the Federation’s economic backbone. And I’ll point out how my opponent is trying to turn Paradise into something it’s not. How he’s undermining the friendly, close-knit community of the planet by making it into a tourist attraction, bringing jobs to a few localities while ignoring the rest.”

Fitan nodded. “Uh huh. So, you’re basically repeating what you’ve been saying for the past three months?”

L’Due frowned. “I’d like to say I’m reinforcing my message.”

“Of course. And how has that worked for you?” Fitan asked. “You’re still all knotted up in the polls. The undecided voters are still undecided.”

“Well, I’m sure that if they just get to hear how committed I am to my ideas and the good of this planet, they’ll come around. This debate is a perfect platform to explain everything I intend to do.”

Fitan made a loud and obvious sigh. “Young politicians! Look, you’ve won some minor posts before, so you obviously know something. But being the Secretary Treasurer of the Third District doesn’t exactly prepare you for a campaign to be planetary governor! You need someone like me to help you out.”

“What are you suggesting?”

Fitan motioned to Kallen with two fingers. She stepped forward, leaned down obviously, and handed L’Due a data pad. He took it without looking at her, which drew a smirking glance from Fitan which Kallen ignored. “This outlines what I’ll be able to do for you quite effectively,” Fitan said.

L’Due began to read, his eyes growing a little wider with each passing moment. “But this is… Slander!”

Fitan shook his head quickly. “No no no! Not slander. It’s slander if it’s lies. All of this is very much true. And easily provable. In fact, most of it is on Dufrense’s public record.”

“But the wording you’re using…”

“Is designed to sway the undecided voters,” Fitan said. “Undecided voters are, for all intents and purposes, complete morons. Any voter with a brain in his head knows the issues, knows the candidates’ stances on the issues, and has already made a decision on whom they’ll vote for months in advance of the election. The undecided voter either doesn’t care about the issues and thus won’t be swayed by them or is too stupid to understand what the issues mean.”

L’Due leaned back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair. “It sounds so underhanded. I thought the Federation was better than this?”

Fitan laughed. “Better? We are the best, Mr. L’Due! But the truth is, if you really want to win a prizefight, you’d better be willing to swing with all you’ve got. Hold back and your opponent will knock you on the canvas.”

“But what about Dufrense? What will he do if I start this up?”

Fitan smiled. “Oh, I think we can handle whatever he throws at us. So don’t you worry.”

L’Due looked down at the data pad, back to Fitan, then back to the data pad. Finally, he sighed and extended his hand. “We have a deal, Mr. Firac.”

Fitan gave L’Due a firm handshake. “It’s the best deal you’ve made yet.”




Kallen sat pulling up at the edges of her top as she sat in the car across from Fitan. “It was easier to convince L’Due than I thought it would be,” she said.

“Don’t worry, you’re not spilling out,” Fitan said offhand. “And you’re right. Normally, those young types like to get all idealistic about it. It normally takes a few lost elections to get the right ideas into their heads.”

“You always had a way with convincing people though.”

“Maybe he’s gay,” Fitan said. “He didn’t give your peep show a first look. That’d be a nice juicy attack piece for Dufrense to use.”

“I don’t think so,” Kallen said. “Maybe he’s just not in to foreign women. He is a Sociocrat, after all.”

Fitan chuckled. “That didn’t stop the one back in Solitude from practically drooling down the front of your dress. What was his name again?”

“Blaque.”

“Ah, right. Bastard didn’t need our help anyway. Wonder what ever happened to him?”

“I hear he’s doing well,” Kallen said flatly.

Fitan shrugged. “Ah, too bad. I’d have liked to work with him again. He felt like he had some really great secrets an opponent could exploit, if only we could crack them.”

“Let’s talk about Dufrense. What are you going to do with him?”

“He’s been around the block a few times. Lost big elections early, won small ones late, going for the big prize again. He should be a piece of cake to crack.”

“Good.”

“Don’t think you’re off the hook, though. So put that sweater down.”

“Yes sir.”

“You’re the best assistant I’ve ever had, you know that?”

“It’s why I get paid so much.”

Fitan smiled wide, while Kallen retained her passive indifference.




Franc Dufrense was a life-long politician. Class president in primary, secondary, and higher education. Tried to make it big quick, but never picked up any support. Went to the bottom of the ladder, climbed that first rung by running unopposed for a city Garbage Commissioner spot after the previous one retired. He improved garbage pickup within a year and it’s been looking up ever since.

“I’ve heard about you,” he said. “Fitan Firac, the man who makes and breaks candidates from both sides. You’ve set up politicians all across the Federation and you’ve ruined even more. In fact, I’m guessing you’ve already been to L’Due today and you’ve already got him accepting your help.”

Fitan smiled. “My reputation is growing.”

“If you were a pod pilot, you’d be an equal for the Shogaatsus, Mittanis, and Brokers of the cluster.”

“Not really into having a cold metal spike jammed into the base of my skull every day. Besides, once you get so much ISK, there’s no real point in having more. It’s really a boring currency, anyway.”

“Why do you do it, Fitan?” Dufrense asked. “What are your politics? Or do you even care? You open the closets of both sides, turn their words against them, and it doesn’t matter what their beliefs are. Hell, you got a damn Amarrian priest elected to public office a few years back when his platform was based in racism.”

Fitan shrugged. “I believe a democracy is only truly working when every fact is exposed. Holding back the truth is unfair to the voters. Say a voter doesn’t realize that, in 104, you voted to approve a bill to raise taxes on lemon exports by seven percent, even though the lemon industry was making a profit of less than .01 ISK per kilogram of lemons. Of course, he works for a lemon farm, so the reason he didn’t get a raise in 104 was because of the bill you voted on.”

Dufrense laughed. “Good one. Of course, they exported two trillion kilograms of lemons per year, which means two billion ISK of profit, which is… Well, I don’t know the conversion into local livres, but it’s an incredible amount.”

“See, that’s why you need me. To counter the truth I’ll be having L’Due tell.”

Dufrense shook his head vigorously. “Out of the question. I’ll respond to all of your twisting truth with explanations. The voters won’t be swayed. I won’t work with you.”

Fitan shrugged. “Your choice. But Ms. Cellia here was going to be working very closely with you. And I think she can show you what we were going to plan for you.”

Kallen once again leaned obviously forward. “Here you go, Mr. Dufrense,” she said in a voice so laced in sultriness that it easily drowned out the resigned disgust. She placed a data pad right in front of him as he stared down the front of her shirt.

His stare lingered as she stood back up and faintly smiled at him. Then he went to look at the data pad and read over it without surprise. “This is a bunch of hogwash, of course,” he said as he finished. “We’ve already been pointing out L’Due’s inexperience.”

“Ah, yes,” Fitan said. “You have been saying that he does not have any experience at the higher levels of government. But what you haven’t been saying is that what experience he does have - being a Transportation Secretary and the Chief Education Official for District 6 (which being a mostly rural district has few roads and no mass transit and only a few small schools attended by less than two-thousand students a piece) - is laughable and shows he isn’t ready in the slightest to run anything, much less an entire planet.”

Dufrense narrowed his eyes. “You really are devious, you know that?”

“Not at all,” Fitan said. “That’s elementary stuff. That’s why I’m here and not at, say, the elections in Old Man Star. Now those guys know how the game is played. But you two… You need some help if you’re going to sway the undecided voters. And it’s my job to get them swayed.”

“You just don’t care who gets swayed which way.”

“Nope. But let me tell you something. They are swayed. Every time I’ve been involved, election numbers have spiked. No eighteen percent voter turn out when I get involved.”

Dufrense sighed. “Fine. You’re hired. If L’Due’s pulling out a gun, I might as well pull one out too.”

Fitan smiled. “Great. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to L’Due. Ms. Cellia will be dealing with you. She’ll treat you right, won’t you?”

“It will be my pleasure,” Kallen said silkily.




“Mr. L’Due, how do you respond to your opponent’s accusations that you are, and I quote, ‘dangerously underqualified and a threat to the stability and prosperity of Paradise the likes of which hasn’t been seen in fifty years.’?” the moderator asked.

L’Due’s shoulders twitched and he grimaced slightly. “Ah, he’s losing the election,” Fitan said from his couch on the shuttle off the planet.

“How do you know?” Kallen asked, but Fitan held up his hand to quiet her as L’Due responded.

“Well, those accusations just show what type of person my opponent is,” L’Due answered, his voice forcibly calm. “Instead of focusing on issues, he wants to attack my credibility as a leader. Meanwhile, he’s done nothing that shows he knows how to run a planet either. He’s spent his career playing safely in the shadow of others in his party, only coming to the forefront out of tenure instead of any ability. There’s a reason he lost his party’s nomination for planetary governor five terms in a row.”

Fitan shook his head. “Decent answer, but he said it all wrong. Too obvious he was angry,” he said. “And that’s why he’s losing the election. He’s saying the right things but looking the wrong way. He looks like he’s unnerved. People don’t want a leader who can’t stand up calmly to a bully. I should send that to Dufrense as a going away present, just to give him an extra place to attack. I really should make it up to him after we took those pictures.”

“He knew it was a setup. He said so before he grabbed me,” Kallen said. “He said he didn’t care.”

“Ah, that’s because he was drunk,” Fitan answered. “Though I don’t think he was too happy about where you hit him.”

“Hey, even I have my limits. He should have at least warned me before he put his hand down the front of my dress.”

Fitan laughed. “I think those pictures probably helped him more than anything! The people of Paradise seem to like having a little fun.”

On the screen, Dufrense was giving his rebuttal. “The fact is, I actually have experience. What my opponent calls living in the shadows, I call learning from the same people who made Paradise live up to its name during their terms in office. Thinking otherwise just shows my opponent’s lack of experience even more. Had he been in any real political positions, he’d know the value of learning from your fellows.”

As the shuttle left the planet’s sphere of influence, the video feed cut out into static. “Ah, damn low-powered planetary broadcasts,” Fitan grumbled. “They never last long enough to see it to the end.”

“You’ve never seen it to the end, Fitan. I don’t think you even know the results of any of the elections you’ve influenced.”

Fitan shrugged. “Knowing the results might change how I do business. And that’s a bad thing. Besides, I didn’t really care about the results of the debate. I just wanted to see if they actually brought up any issues or if they just fought over the commercials that we ran over the past week.”

“It was only a two hour debate and they hadn’t for an hour and a half. I think you’re safe.”

Fitan smiled. “Good. I bet they have close to a fifty percent turnout. The people were frothing at the mouths over those commercials. Who’d have thought they’d have cared so much about how much L’Due got paid for his three week stint on the 12th District’s Environmental Advisory Board?”

“Or that Dufrense had resigned from his post in the 15th District because he was allergic to the local feline species. You really are amazing, sir.”

“I do what I can.”

“So where are we off to next?”

“Old Man Star!”

“I thought you told Dufrense they didn’t need your help.”

“Everyone needs my help, Kallen. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to get them to accept it.”


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