© 2009 gch
Almost two centuries have passed since the events in “Partition.” The dissidents have changed their focus from reuniting with Canada to regaining the personal freedoms lost after the Stoney Creek massacre.
Xaja put down her writing instrument and massaged her hand. “I can’t believe people actually used this method to prepare hard copy. I’ve been at it for thirty minutes and all I have to show for cramped fingers is my name. Look!” She picked up the piece of paper and waved in the direction of her brother. “Adon, turn around and see what I’ve done.”
Adon turned the sound down on his terminal and swivelled his chair around. “Hold it still so I can see it.” He saw a piece of paper from the printer, blank except for the messy word X A J A printed in the centre. “Not bad, but if you wanted a sign, why not print one up? It’d be faster and, if you don’t mind me saying so, a damn sight neater.” Turning back to his computer, he continued, “Why this sudden interest in that – whatever it’s called?”
“You know I don’t like talking to your back. Turn around, please.” He swung around again, then she continued. “According to something I saw on the computer today, this is how things were printed before computers. It’s called . . . let me think . . . “ she paused. “Let’s see. ‘Handwriting!’ That’s it. And people used it to prepare documents.”
Adon laughed. “Right. Next you’ll be telling me Shakespeare did all his plays that way. Xi, think about it. You just spent half an hour on those four characters. At that rate, old Willie would never have finished one play. Just the title ‘King Gord’ would have taken an hour. Trust me on this sis, William Shakespeare used a word processor.” He laughed again. “One more thing to consider: how else could he have made copies for the actors? You can’t honestly believe they were all done by hand? Sorry sis, whatever you read was wrong.”
Xaja sat, still rubbing her hand. There were times she thought her brother purposely tried to belittle every single thing she tried and she was certain this was one of those times. His logic was flawed. It was common knowledge the first computers didn’t arrive from the Orient until the late eighteenth century. That being the case, it was impossible for Shakespeare to have used one. Nothing else made sense, despite Adon’s comments.
She stated at the page she had laboured over and tried to imagine a world without computers; a world where all documents were prepared by hand. How would such a world function? First, a logical assumption would be than not everyone had mastered the art of handwriting. There obviously would be specialists in the field, just as there were specialists now. More than likely, people would visit this “writer” and dictate their message to a disc recorder. They would then return later for the hard copy. Yes, that made sense. The longer she considered it, the more sense it made. These professionals would do the actual handwriting, while other people carried on in their own areas of expertise. After all, there was a university degree called “Doctor of Letters.” It was mostly honorary now, but at one time it must have been granted to the “writers.” The thought staggered her. These ancients had doctorates to ply their trade and here she had been thinking it would be easy.
“Hey, Xaja. I found something interesting here about your new hobby. Come see this.”
“Read it to me.”
Adon peered at the screen. “This says that handwriting was first invented in the nineteenth century by somebody named ‘Job’. Hey! Seeing how long you took with just four characters, maybe that’s the origin of the saying ‘the patience of Job’!” He paused and glanced at his sister. Seeing no reaction, he continued. “It says the invention (or discovery) caused a panic among printer manufacturers.”
“Dear Adon. Sometimes you are so gullible. What, are you hooked into some fantasy site? Brother mine, think back to your school history. Job invented the telephone in the late 1600’s.” She shook her head. Adon had always been the one to believe everything he saw on the screen, even if it completely contradicted the previous screen. But this was something special in that he was researching her latest interest rather than laughing at it. She picked up the writing instrument. “According to the antique dealer who sold me this, um, ‘pen,’ handwriting predates computers. He said . . .” Xaja paused as both computers chimed. The screens blinked as their data disappeared and was replaced with an image of the Parliament Buildings, which had the words “Special Bulletin” superimposed.
“Now what?” grumbled Adon. “Did the PM pass gas or something?” As he spoke the image changed to show the minister responsible for the Bureau of Investigative Activities. She looked up from her notes.
“Good evening. This will be a brief statement and there will be a few questions afterward.
“Today, we have decoded the disk found taped to the front doors of Chatham City Hall two days ago. At this time we will not release the contents of that disk. From our inquiries, we have determined this was the action of a single individual. Thank you.”
The reporters gathered before her were silent for a moment, then “Madame Minister, could you perhaps tell us if the disk contained one document or several and, do you have a suspect in mind, and if so, would you tell us the name of this person?”
The minister smiled. “When I said a few questions, I didn’t think they’d all come from one person in one breath. There was one document with a total of ninety-five clauses or demands. An eyewitness has identified one Marter Luthin of Tilbury as the person responsible.
“I think that should answer all your queries. We will issue further bulletins as more information becomes available. Now, good night, ladies and gentlemen of the media.”
The screen went blank.
Xaja stated at Adon. “Marter! What has he gone and done now?”
Adon shook his head. “Who knows Xi. With him it could be just about anything, but from the tone of the announcement it sounds as if he’s stirred up major trouble for all of us this time, although I certainly hope it’s just a case of the government over-reacting.”
Adon turned to his computer and set about surfing the newsnets, searching for more information. His search revealed only that all the private nets as well as the public one, were carrying repeats of the Minister’s brief announcement. Of course, they all had their own tame talking heads attempting to decipher “what it all meant.” That none of them had seen the disk or its contents didn’t matter. They were being paid by the net to sound intelligent and knowledgeable, so they were going to earn their keep.
A little icon in the top corner began flashing. This was tied to an e-mail address that very few people knew of and messages could only be left after the sender entered a special code. Adon suspended his surfing and clicked on the icon. “Xaja, you need to read this as well.”
Xaja turned from her monitor and joined her brother. “Who’s it from?”
Adon looked at the coding at the top. “Wes.”
“What’s he have to say for himself?”
Adon quickly scanned the message before answering. “He says it wasn’t Marter, that Marter was nowhere near Chatham that night. They were both in Toronto. He doesn’t know who did it, but says he’s confirmed the so-called “eyewitnesses” are employed by the Bureau of Investigative Activities. He feels this is a set-up and they’re using it as a pretext to go after Marter.”
Xaja sighed. “Poor Marter. If he’d only learn when to shut up, he could accomplish so much more. But, for some reason he seems to think that by being loud and disruptive, he can effect great changes.
“Hasn’t he learned anything from the past? Didn’t the ill-fated revolt Louis Riel Dumont led have anything to say to him? Did he not scan the history of Yorkland at the time of the Dumont Rebellion and see how thoroughly it was crushed? Or look at the first citizens’ revolt, the Albert Johnston uprising, the one put down by Vanessa Anderson?”
Adon shook his head slowly. “I don’t think Marter is even aware Dumont tried to overthrow the government or that there was a previous attempt. Maybe I should send a link to his website.”
“And how do you plan on doing that without getting caught? By carrier pigeon? Come on Adon, you know how dangerous that would be, especially now that they’re looking for Marter.”
“Xi, Xi, I’m not that stupid. I’m just saying it might be an idea if someone could teach Marter a bit of history. Don’t worry little sister, I won’t do anything foolish.” That last was more a dig at her size than the fact he was the older of the two. She was petite while he towered close to two metres tall. Adon resumed his surfing and Xaja returned to her handwriting, each thinking their own thoughts.
Since the abortive Dumont attempt, Yorkland had increasingly become a police state. Vanessa Anderson’s stated goal of a standing army equal to five percent of the population had long ago been surpassed. Adon and his sister were involved with – in fact were the actual leaders of – a group dedicated to restoring the personal freedoms enjoyed prior to the appearance on the scene of one Louis Riel Dumont. Both siblings were aware that Marter Luthin was a loose cannon and was advocating another citizen’s revolt, and both were also aware that, especially in view of the restrictions placed upon the citizenry, such armed revolt would meet the same fate as the first two. Their plans were more subtle and of a longer range than a simple uprising.
They were also aware that the second Riel Rebellion had been brought down through the actions of a mole on the central committee. That mole had been their great-grandfather, Paul Milton. Politics being a family heritage, Adon and Xaja worked within the system, near the edge of legality, but strictly within the system. Several decades ago, the government had relaxed some of the restrictions imposed and allowed “free” elections again, although in most ridings, there were few opposition candidates. The only similarity between their plan and that of Louis Riel Dumont was that theirs too depended upon an election being called. The group headed by the brother and sister team wasn’t concentrated in Toronto, but was spread out across all of Yorkland. It, unlike the Dumont cabal, was overt rather than covert.
The siblings were able to function openly because they had registered as a political party, which they called the New Freedom Party. At the moment, neither was head of that party, but were listed in the documents as members of the executive committee. This is why their final success or failure depended upon an election being called.
Finally, the government did call an election. The polls, rigged of course, showed the government had an approval rating of over sixty percent, so there appeared to be no danger of losing power. This was the moment the group had been waiting for. The day following the dropping of the writ, the head of the NFP resigned and named Xaja leader pro tem and the executive committee very quickly made that permanent.
One reason the government had run without opposition was their use of strong-arm tactics. Opposing candidates were bullied or frightened into withdrawing from the race. On some occasions, particularly stubborn candidates met with unfortunate accidents. As much as they were reluctant to do so, after losing several candidates to fatal incidents, such as brake failure on winding roads, Xaja and Adon agreed they would have to adapt the same tactics if they were to stand any chance at all in the upcoming election.
The campaign was more a verbal donnybrook than reasoned and impassioned rhetoric. The candidates for the governing party, rather than tell the people what they would do, spent most of their time smearing the New Freedom Party candidates. While the NFP candidates for the most part stuck with the party platform, rather than retaliate directly, there were allusions to the past performance and heavy-handedness of their worthy opponent and the party they chose to represent.
For most voters, the campaign couldn’t end soon enough. While they were interested in what the New Freedom Party had to say, they couldn’t take the mudslinging from the ruling party, not could they take the intimidation factor.
Political gatherings, as with churches, had been excluded from the ban on assemblies, but were monitored closely. All-candidate meetings often consisted of the government candidate, the NFP candidate, loyal supporters of the government, the family and close friends of the NFP candidate and a dozen or so soldiers around the assemblage. Cowed by the presence of the military, those few ordinary voters who did venture in usually remained silent.
Among the supporters of the NFP were some members of the military. These came from all ranks and had formed a loose association. When the election was called, they were aware that, should the NFP actually win a majority, they may have to take quick action to prevent the newly defeated government attempting to stage a coup. Consequently they had made plans that those they considered loyal to the NFP, or to Xaja herself, would be not only on base, but armed, on election day.
The day of the election was bright and sunny, belying the tension felt by the citizens of Yorkland. The media, who had been keeping track of the campaign, were saying this could be the most important election in the short history of Yorkland. At the polling stations, the government’s intimidation continued, with armed soldiers being very visible at the entrances. There were few incidents, although several people were hustled off in custody before they had a chance to cast their ballot. A reporter on the scene noted that those who were detained all wore campaign buttons from the NFP candidate in that particular riding, but wisely did not include that fact in his report.
Yorkland, because of it’s size, was all in one time zone, so all the polls closed at the same time, therefore the results began flowing very soon after that hour. Initial results showed the government would retain its hold on power. The major media outlets, never willing to bite the hand that feeds them, or in this case allowed them to exist, were quick to declare the government had won the election. Thirty minutes later the talking heads and pundits were scrambling to explain the sudden surge in votes for the NFP and the fact they appeared to have taken several key ridings. Many variations of “it’s not over until it’s over” were heard through the media over the next hour or so, as the NFP collected riding after riding.
Keeping tabs on the election results, the ranking officer of the NFP cabal in the military mobilized his men, ordering them to keep the commanding officers of their respective bases under close confinement. This resulted in several irate colonels yelling at lower ranks when orders to stand down were refused. It also brought a few surprises when the base commander revealed that he too supported the NFP and would cause no problems for the other supporters.
As had been expected, when the Prime Minister learned that not only was his party being soundly trounced by this upstart New Freedom Party, but that he’d lost his own seat to the NFP candidate, he called the man who had been his Minister of Defence, only to learn that person had also lost his seat.
The PM’s next call was to the Army Chief of Staff, General Walters. This worthy was sitting in his study listening to the election results and working on his computer when the telephone rang. He answered it to hear the Prime Minister’s panicked voice.
“General Walters! Have you been watching the election results? We can’t let this happen! We can’t lose power! Order your troops into the streets. I want the NFP ground into dust by morning. I want Xaja Milton in chains at my door by dawn!”
General Walters saved what he’d typed and turned his full attention to the former Prime Minister. “I’m sorry sir, but you are no longer the head of government according to the will of the people. Therefore you have no right to order me to do anything.” General Walters lived in the riding Xaja had contested and had in fact voted for her with a smile on his face.
General Walters had received his officer’s training at Sandhurst in England and had always disliked the way the government had used and abused what he called “his men” to maintain an iron grip on Yorkland. He couldn’t see staging a coup, which some of his junior officers had proposed on more than one occasion, but now that a truly free and honest election had ousted the regime, he was damned if he’d help it maintain power illegally. “It appears that Xaja Milton is, or will be in a few hours, the new Prime Minister of Yorkland, so I will wait and see what orders, if any, she has for me. Now, good night sir.” He hung up and returned to the monitor screen, quietly reading what he’d written.
Effective immediately, 2200 hours on this date, I order all members of the Armed Forces of Yorkland to stand down. Under no circumstances is any person of any rank to accept an order from a member or former member of the just defeated government.
As the people have chosen to elect a majority of members of the New Freedom Party, the loyalty of the Armed Forces will be to Yorkland, the Armed Forces, and the New Freedom Party.
Failure to obey this directive will be considered grounds for court-martial.
Nodding and smiling to himself, he clicked on “send” and all base commanders, as well as certain members of the cabal who’d been sent blind copies, received their instructions.
The people had also been following the election reportage with more than great interest. Once it became clear that the NFP had defeated the government, they congregated in the streets, ignoring the soldiers on patrol. The soldiers themselves, having been made aware of General Walters’s directive, in turn ignored the gathering masses, and in some cases joined them. The civilian police, reasoning that they would be unable to control these crowds without help from the army, which they could see wasn’t going to happen, contented themselves with watching and directing traffic around the mobs.
Those people who lived in Toronto gathered, not on the streets, but on the south lawn of Queen’s Park. As with those in other cities, they were peaceful, just revelling in the fact they could congregate without the soldiers disrupting or arresting them. The police on duty, after an initial slight panic over the gathering mob, resumed their normal task of guarding the entrance.
In two campaign offices, the reactions to the media coverage of this gathering were completely different. In the office of the now former Prime Minister, he was shouting “Why aren’t the police or army breaking up this demonstration? Why are they gathering at Queen’s Park anyway? That ground has been forbidden to them!” He reached for the telephone and called the Chief of Staff again. General Walters answered, heard the voice screaming at him, and hung up silently. Understanding at last that he had lost the backing of the army, and thereby his means of controlling the people, the Prime Minister accepted defeat and reached for the telephone once more. “Get me Xaja Milton.”
In Xaja’s campaign headquarters she, along with her brother and her workers and supporters were overwhelmed by the show of support and quicky decided to make an appearance. Contacting various people, they made their way in a small motorcade to Queen’s Park.
The arrival of the motorcade didn’t attract much attention from the gathered throngs until Xaja stepped out of one of the vehicles. Immediately the quiet was broken as, with one voice, the crowd shouted out her name. While they had been in transit, Xaja had accepted a call from the former Prime Minister acknowledging his loss – ungraciously, but he acknowledged it – and wishing her well.
Making her way to the steps of the legislature, Xaja waited patiently until the crowd grew quieter. One of the officers on guard duty appeared carrying a microphone for her. She accepted the offered device and thanked the officer with a smile. Turning to the crowd, she was silent for a moment, then:
“Thank you all for your support tonight. While I was on my way here, the former Prime Minister called to wish me well as I embark on my new journey.” She turned to look at the people gathered behind her on the steps. “Let me introduce to you some of these people up here with me, for some of them will play a role in how Yorkland proceeds from here.” As she called each name, the party named stepped forward. Finally, there were only two people left. “Next is my brother Adon, without who’s encouragement I couldn’t have made it this far. And finally, we have the Governor-General, who has graciously agreed to administer the Oath of Office on short notice.”
Xaja handed the microphone to the Queen’s representative and stood back while that lady stepped to the edge of the top step. “Thank you. While it is unusual for a successful party leader to be sworn in on the same night they were elected, it is not unprecedented. I won’t bore you with the historical incidents where this has happened before rather, since I can sense you’re in no mood for rhetoric, I’ll just get on with it.”
With those words, Xaja came forward once more, this time to take the oath of office, then began her inauguration speech:
“Good evening. My name is Xaja Anna Monoghan Milton. My great, great grandmother was Anna Milton, one of the architects of Yorkland. Tonight, almost two centuries after she and Vanessa Anderson started this great country on its path, we are once again at a point where Yorkland needs new direction.
“The New Freedom Party made many promises during this campaign and it gives me great pleasure to act on the first of those promises tonight. As of midnight, the imposition of the National Security and Anti-Terrorism Act, under which we’ve lived for the past one hundred and fifty years, will be repealed.”
Anything else Xaja might have had to say was lost to the roar of the crowd as the import of her words sunk in to the watchers. Thirty minutes later, once the applause and cheers had subsided, she continued “This does not mean a suspension of all laws. It means that those restrictions on assembly; on freedom of expression, and the other limitations imposed by that act will no longer be in effect. If you’re drunk in a public place, you can still expect to sober up in jail.” The crowd roared with laughter at this. “All the civil laws are still in place and will be enforced. So behave yourselves accordingly.” She paused again, surveying the crowd, then
“Since I can tell you’re all in the mood for a party, I’ll stop now. The Speech from the Throne to be delivered next week will contain more details on what the New Freedom Party plans.
“Once again, thank you all for your love and support, and Long Live Yorkland!”
The media covering this event turned off their audio equipment lest it be destroyed by the sheer volume of sound from the crowd.
Later, in their apartment, a very exhausted brother and sister watched the replays. “I can’t believe we actually did it Adon. I can’t believe we got rid of that dictator.”
Adon watched the screen. “Don’t be too sure he’s gone for good Xi. Rats like that have a habit of turning up where and when you least expect them.”