Regency at Mid Stride
Premiered 9/9/9 (9 September 2009)
The continuation of The Myth and Legend of D'PTah, an original novel by Dan Sewell Ward.
Regency at Mid Stride
Ars longa, vita brevis... or as popularly known, “Art is long, life is short”.
Admittedly, some art is longer than others, and for all sorts of reasons... the primary reason being that art is in the eyes of the promoter. That art which is long is inevitably long by means of advertising, marketing, public relations, and the ability of one or more persons to convince others that any given art is great (and therefore worth the cost)... and of course, irrespective of the buyer's individual preferences. While there are limits to such gullibility, gallery owners and gallery slaves the world over know that full page photos in multiple issues of art magazines do more to create the illusion of art than any other means. But then again... De gustibus non est disputandum (“In matters of taste there is no dispute.")
When it comes to long and short... what is the measure of any creative endeavor by an individual, or even a group? How important, for example, is it to leave a legacy? Not just the fond memory of an artist, but for all of those who struggle and work to create something for which their names will likely never be associated. How does anyone truly measure up to the challenges of their lives, and at the same time leave evidence that not only did they wander by during this particular moment in history, but that they also left something of benefit for future generations – something that would cause the latter to wonder about their lives as artists, and in the best of situations, to think of the artist/legatee in a positive fashion.
Take Emily. Here was a woman brought up with an understanding and appreciation of the importance of her art outliving her. Inasmuch as she believed herself destined for a shorter life span than her physical attributes should have otherwise allowed, she wanted very much to leave a part of her in a form that could withstand the long term. And if her life was indeed shorter than it might have been... it would be so for the sake of her art. The truth of the matter is that any artist, in any day and age, must contend with the afflictions of practicing art. For painters, many of the colors and tinctures are toxic and blessed with such colorful names as cyanide, arsenic... even perhaps a bit of old lace.
As a sculptress, Emily was routinely exposed to the varying toxicities of waxes, clays, silicon rubbers and molds (silicosis is a disease), metal finishings of silicon bronzes and irons with their metallic dusts, and chemical patinas of every variety – all finding homes in her long hair, abrasions of the skin, and despite her state-of-the-art respirators, in the throat, lungs, and various internal organs. Emily took all of the precautions, but like so many artists before (and after) her, she knew that she would likely follow their path of early deaths, madness, or shifts into other activities such as alcohol, drugs, and other addictions in order to counter the effects of their mediums. Some might have thought that it took a degree of insanity to accomplish great art – when truth be told, it was the practice of any art which often yielded the insanity, including addictions to drugs and alcohol, and other afflictions. A house painter was as likely to become a drunk as, say, a van Gogh or a Jackson Pollock, but a house painter was more likely to have steadier employment. Emily had chosen art as her destiny, fully understanding the risks. And it was the longevity of art that so appealed to her.
Consequently, and despite the dangers of practicing her talent, eventually she chose to leave the Regent and pursue her art. The inherent dangers of being an artist – when she could easily have walked away from the art and surfed the comforts of highly placed friends – were insufficient discouragements for someone who felt an overpowering need for her own personalized stamp upon posterity. Instinctively, Emily knew she could not ride her lover's coat tails in being remembered for her art. She also knew full well that her art could never compete with the power of the drawing force of the Regency. I had never doubted her love for the man who became Regent, that they had come together to pursue their arts long before this new world. But now, with her worth as an artist intensely colored by her status as “first lady”, she made perhaps one of the most courageous decisions of her life. She chose to leave someone whom she loved, for the art she loved more and which was destined to go the longer distance in time.
My first interest – selfish and personalized as it was -- had been to gage the effect of Emily's departure on Daniel. I had long sensed his affection and love for her. But now, what would his reaction be? Would we be dealing with depression coloring the Regent's actions, just when all manner of hell was about to break loose – some of which already had? Would her leaving somehow wreck his peace of mind?
I was initially disappointed – for whatever reason, I can hardly imagine. Instead of a car wreck, the Regent seemed to take the news in a very matter of fact manner... as if he had fully anticipated it. Perhaps he had known Emily better than anyone else and knew what to expect from her. Pete, of course, suggested an alternative theory, whereby with the failures of honest people to comprehend his good intentions, the routine and relatively mundane betrayals of people who should have known better, and the increasing criticisms lodged from every vested interest... why would he be disappointed in someone truthfully and sincerely choosing another path? Everyone has their own perceived destiny, and thus Emily's “walking away” need not be considered as an objection to another's goals and agendas. This was not a vote by Emily for the opposition... even when suggested as such.
If the truth be known, all was not blissful in the new Camelot. The seemingly near universal repudiation of the oaths – private and public – of the attendees to the Grand Ecumenical Council and the comparatively little attention being paid by these same authors to the Common Principles of Humanity in the aftermath... these were perhaps the biggest thorns in our side. Added to these routine betrayals on the part of the clerics of every stripe and form – where they claimed first one thing, and then another -- were the machinations from corporations, the media, and every possible organization who knew how to create blinders in supporting their own purposes. Too many enemies with power was the simplest conclusion. But it meant that the pressure on the Regency was becoming intense. He appeared to be holding up well, but my intuition was that he was cruisin' for a bruisin'. At some point the pressure cooker was going to require some relief, in one form or another.
The basic problem was that we had been shaking all together too many cages. The words "arrogance", "unilateral", "egotistical", and so forth were routinely applied to the Regency... even if diplomacy would likely have been ineffective in fostering any real and sustained change. There had been massive public relations efforts on both sides of the issue of convincing the majority population of the benefits to be gained by a transfer of wealth from the needy to the greedy or vice versa. Worse yet, the PR efforts against us were of the sort that were are not obliged to respect or be restrained by honesty and ethics. Unmitigated evil always has the short term advantage – and in the days following the first bloom of the Regency, most of our efforts were short term reactionary ones.
Jessica Enid had certainly been instrumental in getting out the word for our side. But even she had reached a point of no return. Basically someone with the intense desire to enjoy life to the fullest, she had finally reached the end of her tenure in battling the forces of dissolution. Losing her was not quite the same as losing Emily, and fortunately Jessica had already had the heart-to-heart talk with the Regent before the bigger bomb of Emily's leaving became known. Thus, it was not necessarily the eager beavers deserting the pond. And for those of us staying, it would need be that we learn to add chunks of concrete to the river debris that was typically used to form our dams, and thereby resist the flow of negative events. The good news in this case was that Jessica's assistant, Charlotte Joy Weaver, would be taking Jessica's baton without a break in stride. In the interim... I suspect Jessica had possibly some other great journey to take. It was a long time before I realized just how great a journey it might be.
On a more positive note, Joe and Laura seemed particularly content in the still secretive PTS project – which I now understood was short for “Petus” (the latter which helped me not at all!). Joe was particularly in his element, working with the physics that Hormer Volkov had added to the mix. The prime example of this were the propulsion systems which, at least in Joe's eyes, were far beyond amazing, revolutionary, and even obvious once they had been formulated. The Connective Physics, the esoteric and the exoteric, and all of the grand and glorious possibilities had Joe's mind reeling... and despite old Brookings' tales to the contrary, he loved it! Joe had referred more than once to Fred Hoyle's The Black Cloud as a lesson in highly educated people trying to cope with being suddenly presented with radically new and astounding technology. But Joe was flexible enough... apparently. Stunning new ideas were trumping old baggage. Meanwhile, Laura was positively loving the spying. She seemed to be keeping her secrets even from Joe. Engineers can be so focused, that her ability to do so was no big surprise.
Pete – apparently the one truly faithful and dependable companion – was convinced, despite Joe's claims, that much of the new physics were fully within the range of human capabilities. Pete was simply not willing to assume that the science had not already been discovered, even developed by humans... but in great secrecy. The reason being that those smart enough to develop and comprehend such physics were also obviously capable of knowing that handing over such knowledge to the wrong hands – such as those in power prior to the Regency – would have been foolhardy to say the least. Some leaders – who reach and maintain their power positions by the most despicable of manipulations – are the last people to be trusted to deal wisely with truly advanced technology. We had simply been, comparatively, lucky with the Manhattan Project.
Pete also ascribed to the tradition that it was always wise to follow the ancient Turkish proverb, to wit: “Those who tell the truth, should have one foot in the stirrup.” His modern day version was that those with the knowledge to irrevocably change the world should first invest in the means of a quick and effective getaway technology. The rule is to have an exit strategy and to cover your posterior whenever dealing with anything that might present a strong attraction to those who steal and deceive for a living.
Pete remaining in the fold was an enormous comfort to me. Besides keeping me entertained with such gems as Aquila non capit muscas. “The Eagle does not hunt flies”, Pete was also there to calm me with his perpetual grin and to remind me of our purpose... which he routinely did by simply musing aloud at what he called the comic relief of alternative oratorical outbursts. I could not imagine Pete ever losing sight of what really mattered. Of course, in politics one is always advised to never assume loyalty on anyone's part. Times change and with them, people... even the most reliable. And you just never know what or who is going to be the trigger for a wholly new, fully rationalized change in loyalties.
Perhaps more importantly for me personally was Pete's loyalty when my husband David was seemingly becoming ever more distant to me... and perhaps my becoming distant to him. David would have noticed such slights, even if only subconsciously. Of course, the subconscious does have ways to making its feelings known in the fully conscious world. Accordingly, David had probably, intuitively realized my affections for Daniel were not wholly innocent. There had been nothing for anyone to even blush about, but the twinkle in my eye while in the presence of Daniel was noticeably lacking when David and I were alone.
Which of late was not nearly as often as one would expect for a married couple. We of course both had our many jobs and responsibilities. For either of us to have free time was hard enough, but to coordinate both of us having free time simultaneously... that was tough. The Regent still had many uses for David, even while I wondered if the Regent tolerating David's less than stellar qualities was for my sake. Not to put myself on too high a pedestal – my fear of heights becoming suddenly relevant – there was sometimes the sense that when David came up short (such times being obvious to everyone in the room at the time... with the possible exception of David), Daniel always managed to find reason to praise.
But with departures, there are also arrivals. Senator Layde (and in his absence, his aide, Melissa Court) were acting as a kind of liaison to the many politicians throughout the world who were still clinging to power. The curious part is that the Senator apparently loved the task; the sense being that if he could not be the prime focus, he could at least be the lens which conveyed the Regency's acts to the worker bees. Layde also seemed to be offering good advice to our inner circle. I was not convinced that the Regency fully trusted the man – the latter who after all was the consummate politician. But Layde and Melissa Court were getting things done. That counts for a lot.
Their example suggests that we may have convinced some of the former, pre-Regency power brokers that the Regency had earned their respect and loyalty. On the short list of such people were McIntosh, Sudra, and Gabe. I was in particular spending more time with Gabe. Our goals and agendas made it a natural fact that our contacts were closer and more frequent. There seemed to be no romantic inclinations, thus leading me to suspect that I could trust him more than most. Romance would have been, in fact, entirely too obvious and too suspect. Platonic relationships seemed more genuine and less contorted. It certainly worked for the two of us... at least I had to assume so. Gabe also reported that McIntosh, meanwhile, was happy as a clam with the PTS/Petus project (I am going to find out what that is!). In addition, Admiral Sudra was sufficiently candid and forthcoming that even he I felt I could trust.
Speaking of trust, I kept wondering if I could rely on the Senator... or Melissa. I would probably reserve my judgment for a bit longer, but he (and she) did seem genuine enough. The Senator had of course been subjected to serious surveillance and come up clean. David had even taken on the responsibility to make sure the Senator's aide was equally clean. That had been one of David's better ideas, I thought. My only concern was that giving him the responsibility might have been a hidden test. Would David figure it out and act accordingly? I hoped so... if for no other reason than Melissa Court seemed... to me... well... dangerous. Some women give off the scent of sweet-smelling, unbridled ferocity. Melissa was one of those women. Still... my hesitation to trust her might have been my own baggage. The fact remained that she had all of the right moves and had yet to make a mis-step.
The truth is that leadership can be a lonely place if one does not occasionally trust someone! Anyone needs a few allies, especially when there is so much opposition. From the backsliding clerics from the Ecumenical Council to the corporate backlash – which incidentally was apparently using religious unrest to fuel yet more problems – there were more than enough enemies. What was scary was that arch enemies were acceding to the dictum that 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend', and that the prime enemy had become the Regency itself.
Am I being too dramatic? Well, consider one of Admiral Sudra's report.
“The oil fires set in the Middle East, ostensibly by religious fanatics, are slowly being brought under control.”
“Ostensibly by religious fanatics?” Pete was always one to challenge hidden assumptions. It seemed like something of a prerequisite for a good analyst.
“The simple response is to assume Muslim fanatics have created their own hell by setting the oil fires that destroy their own resources and pollute their air. In the process, of course, they are dooming millions of their own people to breathe black soot in ways that would make a coal miner blanch. But we do have some evidence that while religious fundamentalists may be very unhappy right now and want to make their anger apparent, the fact remains that there may be other forces doing the sabotage, and may simply be using the previous history of how these religious fundamentalists have done things in the past. If people believe someone is capable of doing really horrendous acts -- suicide bombings and the like -- then it's easy to use such people as a scapegoat for any and all acts of a similar questionable nature.”
“The media has certainly made the assumption it's the religious fanatics that are setting the wells afire.”
“Precisely. It's almost as if it's something we should have expected, based upon the history of the region." For just a moment, he paused. Then he grimaced slightly. "However... when one finds other major problems world wide – then the suspicion arises that the oil fires are just one prong of a multi prong attack on... well... just about everything. And the perpetrators are not necessarily the ones we would naturally suspect... or else the usual suspects are simply being covertly used by our real enemies.”
“Which is to say,” Pete replied, only partly in jest, “It's the Empire striking back... where, of course, it's expressly understood that the 'empire' consists of the corporate, vested interests, the industrialists, and the religious and other Powers that be, all of the ones who are threatened by the Regency.”
“The evidence does appear to lead to a similar conclusion,” Sudra replied.
“From a wider perspective,” Pete continued, feeling as if he was on a roll, “it may be irrelevant whether or not religious unrest is the cause, or merely the tool. Religion has always been used by secular power seekers for their own purposes. This could be just more of the same. Do we need to delve deeper?”
“Quite likely.” The Admiral shook his head. “We do know, for example, that food and water sources are increasingly becoming more limited. There have been widespread reports of extensive crop failures – some in marginal areas, but also some in areas commonly assumed to be a stable source of food stocks. Several critical water facilities have been damaged in what might have been accidents, but which could also have been sabotage by fanatics of any number of several different varieties. The end result is that there is even less fresh water now than in recent years.”
Pete asked, “Intentional sabotage is not a big surprise. On the other hand, what can we do about it?”
The Admiral frowned. “Not much. You need bodies on the ground to police adequately. Also, there is some evidence that many people and groups are desperate enough to do anything to survive, and in the process may have inadvertently done more damage to themselves (and others) than one would have thought possible. But the idea that forces may be covertly causing problems – in accordance with their own agendas – cannot be dismissed. There are clearly enough candidates for such activities. The difficulty is making specific linkages between specific groups and different sabotage events.
“In any case, there is the distinct possibility of hundred of millions of people, if not a billion or so, being at serious risk of death by famine or disease.”
“Koenig's Elite Legions are also being used considerably more often,” the Admiral continued, smiling in his grim, devious way, “And not quite living up to the title of their namesakes. They've taken a lot of hits. There is also some evidence that Koenig is more and more on our side – although he may in fact be playing both sides of the fence. The man is not totally without intellectual ability. When he is constrained to avoid knee jerk reactions to immediately set out to kill, maim, and destroy anyone who offends him, he can come up with some relatively impressive thinking and planning processes. Even occasionally a degree of subtlety. He also has a couple of generals under his command who are brilliant strategists.”
“I would have assumed that his form of training would have discouraged such subtle thinking.”
“His black and white training, if you'll pardon the pun, does tend to negate subtlety. But he also attended several war colleges. The latter apparently had its intended effect upon General Koenig.”
It was Senator Layde, leaning forward from his chair, who made the judgment, “Koenig will need to prove his loyalty. It's time for him to choose sides.”
Admiral Sudra came very close to ignoring Layde, but upon a near-instantaneous reflection probably saw no advantage in doing so. After a quick, albeit limited acknowledgment, he continued, “On another front, there has been some limited nuclear planning activity from several nations. These nations are primarily where religion both permeates and controls the government... with one notable exception. From one perspective, we could ask, 'Why have they waited so long? Weren't they just itching to rain fire and brimstone down on their enemies?' It appears as if they are planning on taking what might be perceived to be their last opportunity to take out those with whom they have disagreed for so long – and before the Regency can gain the upper hand to the point of controlling all of the mass destruction weapons. The only good news is that most of the triggers have now been dismantled. The bad news is that too much critical material has been squirreled away and hidden from the first arrival of inspectors intent upon removing that option. This of course happened in the earliest days of the Regency.
“Three bombs have been found, undetonated, in the cradles of civilization. But even without having been exploded, these areas are now in an apparent death throes from the fall out of the oil fires. A relatively small percentage of the oil fields are ablaze, but with the thick black smoke, it now looks as if most of the Middle East is burning.
"Pakistan and India apparently took the Middle East example to heart, prepping to exchange one or more weapons each, until wiser heads regained control. Unfortunately, the near-possibility was enough to send massive numbers of people fleeing the most likely target areas. This has caused a massive refugee problem. We are making our presence felt with inspection teams, technological, and humanitarian aid, but any landlocked or mountainous nation is problematic in that too many would-be combatants are condoning more deaths by the simple expedience of fouling the flow of aid. In terms of true and substantial assistance, we must rely on the sea lanes. The classic defense of lands far from the sea was that invasions would have to go overland. The other edge of this sword is that aid must travel the same route, and be similarly afflicted on the way.
“Still, despite any possible alleviation of the problem, the long standing hatred and animosity between religions, and to a lesser degree between cultures, has been fanned into sufficient force that it is unlikely that they will ever come to terms and learn to live in peace. This demonstration of the seemingly insurmountable objection by religious leaders to peace and understanding between peoples may even be the primary motivation of those who tried to initiate this planned weapons exchange. The plan may have been to enrage the other side to the point where no compromise could ever be realized. The hate was so intense that it had to have more hate just to survive.”
“Good God,” the Regent suddenly exclaimed in apparent disgust, “What kind of pathetic creatures are these? Is there any reason to even bother trying to save them?”
No one wanted to answer what was apparently a surprising departure from the Regency's normal calm. The very idea that the Regent might have been pushed just a bit too far was enough to make everyone hesitate, lest he slip further down that most slippery of slopes. I, on the other hand, had encountered more than one expression of total disgust by the Regent in recent weeks. Instinctively, I turned to look at Pete, thinking he was the only one who might step up to the plate and reign in what might have been the initial excesses of a leader under pressure. But Pete either was not seeing Daniel's actions as excessive, or he was simply unwilling to challenge the Regent under the present circumstances. Instead, with a wry grimace, Pete speculated, “One wonders if insanity and religious intolerance are communicable, terminal diseases?” No one chose to answer the possibly rhetorical question, assuming that it was intended only as a tension defuser.
When the Admiral sensed that he again had the undisputed floor, he continued. “There may be an even greater problem looming.” There was a dead hush, as he explained, “Rumors of an impending and very deadly pandemic are raising their head. The critical factor is that there is no obvious single source of the media blitz, but instead seems to be arising all over the world, including the first world nations. This suggest an orchestrated effort. Plans may be under way to intentionally institute a real, genuine pandemic, the kind that kills millions."
“That's almost unimaginable.”
“Not from the perspective of many thinkers," the Admiral continued, nonplussed. "There are many people with allegedly, rationalized, honorable intentions who have come to the conclusion that:
“What hideous logic!”
“Yes, it's certainly that from one point of view. But it's also highly rational. If you think religious fanatics are dangerous, consider the danger of technology fanatics, people who believe in scientific progress so completely that they can rationalize anything. The key to their flawed logic of course is that they start with faulty premises and/or ignore contradictory evidence without so much as considering it. Secularism can have all of the flaws and blind spots of the most orthodox religious fanaticism”
“And the bright spot?” Pete seemed determined to find a silver lining.
The Admiral hesitated. Then after a deep breath, he continued, “Our most fundamental problem is that the wars, famines and general unrest are being blamed on a collective loss of religious morals. The use of questionably legal tactics (torture, et al) – even when rationalized by the fact that the more recent victims were the initial perpetrators of such tactics on others – has had mixed results. Those who were delighted at the karmic debts being discharged have proven to have very short memories and are now creating a new problem. Those who didn't like it, can find nothing good to say about the Regency. Those who liked it, and yet find their own power challenged, have chosen to use the acts as a sign of corruption, and... a lack of righteousness. That latter phrase carries a lot of emotional fanaticism.
“If there is a bright spot, it's that we are now communicating with numerous Secret Societies – such communications constituting something of a light at the end of a very long tunnel. We are currently at the stage of what might best be called, 'First Contact' – but with plans to ensure that our diverse and common goals can potentially be met. It is interesting that none of those in the core of these societies -- i.e., those with access to knowing what was really going on -- none of them were surprised at the arrival of the extraterrestrials. For them, there was no paradigm crisis; just an acknowledgment that, 'oh, finally, they're back... must be time to begin activating some of our carefully drawn plans.' For the moment, we seem to be in the process of forging a major alliance with these folks.”
With a deep sigh, the Regent said, “At least there's no 'lack of imagination' in some areas.”
“That would appear to be the case,” the Admiral responded. Taking a deep breath, he continued on. “There are several immediate problems requiring action of some kind. One is the street corner evangelist, Johnny Ceal, who is now calling for a regime change -- one to the point of revolution. The 'regime change' would be one to replace a Regency suffering from what he calls: 'intellectual hubris'.”
Pete almost laughed. “Hubris? Hey, I'll plead guilty on that score!”
The Admiral ignored the interruption. “He's insisting that the current Regent be replaced with someone who maintains his belief in a supreme being – not surprisingly the one in which Ceal and his followers have always believed. He's coming dangerously close to insurrection, albeit now only intellectual.”
“Is he being used?”
“Absolutely. But the fact remains that he's still a loose cannon. There is no obvious control over his actions, no apparent coordination. But it's not really needed. About all those who want to use him can do right now is to react to his fantasies. They can't direct him, but then again they don't apparently need to. He's rolling about the decks like a live bomb, and can still cause a great deal of damage to the ship of state. This may require an intervention at the highest level.”
Sudra said the latter while looking directly at the Regent. It was Pete, however, who fielded the challenge – much like one of the Regent's most trusted knights, throwing himself between his liege and the threatening weapon. Pete said, “Setting up a confrontation between the zealot and the Regency sounds a bit like a trial.. worse yet, a passion play with the part of Pontius Pilate being played by the Regent.”
That was when Senator Layde leaped into the discussion. “Not necessarily. In fact, a 'play' as you call it, might be just the thing. If we agree to televise a live 'interview'; his handlers will leap at the chance. Meanwhile, we will make the point of not punishing him. We can offer him protection; guarantee him the right to speak his mind. We can even use the Voltaire quote: 'I may not agree with your opinions, but I will defend to the death your right to voice them.' And we can mean it! In this way, we may be able to nullify the problem, and instead rally some support for our side.”
“Sounds risky,” Pete countered. Pete knew he was using an emotional gut level reaction against an intellectual argument, but it was the best he could do for the moment.
That's when the Regent smiled slightly. “Risk is also the nature of the job. We will begin making some plans in that regard, but only on the sly for the moment. I want to think about this and consider some alternatives before we make this definite.”
That was pretty much the status, as of that date. It had become obvious that Admiral Sudra was now apparently committed to our cause... as if there had ever been any question. I did pick up on some comment about a “bullet”, and that somehow this had meaning to both the Admiral and the Regent. But I had no clue as to the underlying meaning. Instead, I just filed it away for future reference. My immediate goal was to keep track of the Regent once the meeting had broken up. I wanted to see exactly which others he would “consult” with. I wasn't particularly surprised when I found out.
I didn't get to directly witness it, but shortly thereafter it became apparent that the Regent had met with Lil and Hormer. Of particular note was the fact that the mention of some sort of anointment of the Regent by the others. This reminded me of Pete's earlier slip, but Pete was still keeping mum. (Such was very unlike him, suggesting that the secret must be very important!)
I did manage to corner Hormer, however. Well... maybe not "corner"... more like just getting in his way as he was heading for parts unknown. I suspect he would have run over me, if I hadn't looked so fragile and wounded about being left out of the important moments so vital to any historian. He was amazingly kind... and informative. He admitted, for example, to having a hand in foiling the plot to poison the attendees of the Grand Ecumenical Council. After the revelation, he added a funny aside.
“Considering the number who have violated their oaths... with every imaginable rationalization... perhaps we made a serious mistake in not allowing them to be poisoned.”
“You're not really serious, are you?”
Hormer looked at me, almost wistfully. “Not really. But then again, many of the turncoats have met their destinies in other ways. So it's probably best the way we did it.”
I looked at him for a moment. “Does compassion ever enter into your thinking?” I almost swallowed by tongue when I realized what I had asked. But then again, I wanted to know.
Hormer merely smiled his best, tantalizing smile. “Not my department.” 
Later, when Pete and I were alone... in our standard post meeting debriefings and attempts to figure out what had just happened... I started out with my immediate concern. “Is it my imagination or has Daniel... the Regent... been tending to get angrier of late?”
“Probably your imagination,” Pete answered. When I looked sufficiently disgruntled at his answer, he added, “Can you blame him? He's earnestly trying to solve humanity's problems and the vast bulk of humanity is countering him at every turn. Maybe you should cut him a little slack.”
“He's the Regent, Pete. He doesn't get cut slack.”
“He's also human.”
For a moment I looked at Pete. With as an intense look as I could muster, I said, “Perhaps, dear friend, you need to remind him of that.”
Pete was genuinely surprised at my challenge. “What exactly are you suggesting I do?”
“I'm suggesting that as the one person on the planet who is in a position to do anything... that you diplomatically suggest that he needs some step-back-and-think-about-it time. You need to remind him of his responsibilities.”
“Oh, I think he is very clear about his responsibilities,” Pete said with a no-nonsense tone.
“I understand he's getting a lot of resistance, but...” For a moment, I hesitated. Taking a deep breath, I said, “It's part of his job: to maintain a stable keel even under the worst of heavy seas.”
Pete thought intently for a moment. “I think he's been doing that. But I will talk to him about it. And yes," he quickly added, “I will be very diplomatic. I like the current configuration of my head and body.”
“I'm sure you will be the ultimate diplomat,” I smiled. “It's just that you have a rather unique position.”
“I'm well aware of that,” he replied, looking unusually thoughtful. Then he looked at me with an intensity that caused me to quit breathing for several seconds. "Daniel has to do many things... some of which will not be viewed as gently by history as we might like. Sometimes, as Mary Renault might have said, The King Must Die. It's in the nature of absolute leadership... to recognize when one has to step down for committing acts that can not be faulted by any pragmatic historian."
I was aghast. "The end of the Regency?"
"Oh, no," Pete was quick to add. "Someone else would have to take over. It's just that while the Regency must continue until the race comes of age... there is no assurances or restrictions on who will be the Regent in the interim."
I watched him shrug his shoulders... as if he were telling me that the sun rises in the east... and that I should not expect otherwise... except in the most extraordinary of circumstances. I quickly made the decision to put this topic on the back burner... I was not ready for any such talk. It sounded traitorous and I was in no way ready to go there. I could not imagine Pete was thinking such things either; and instead Pete was just being the theoretical pragmatist. In any case, I decided to take off the pressure, by asking, “What else do we need to talk about?”
“How to solve all of our problems?”
“Something like that," I replied.
“Actually I do have a theory that might help. It's based on the Israeli model.”
“That place does tend to encourage theorizing,” I smiled.
“Of course, I don't have access to any real evidence.” Pete grinned in his routine fashion.
“No matter,” I replied. “That should make for a more interesting theory.”
“It does. My idea is that in the past the Powers That Be – the real powers, not the piddling leaders of nations, but the guys who were really in charge until the advent of the Regency... these powers had an overriding need for the continued existence of Israel. When you're hanging on to power, you often need a party of the second part who will drive the party or parties of the third part up the wall. For example, we've had communists to strike fear into the heart of every able bodied (but alas not necessarily thinking) individual. The 'Red Menace" was very, very effective.
“There has always been needed something to stir the masses into genocidal, homicidal, and suicidal tendencies. Inasmuch as Israel is first and foremost one of the largest thorns in the side of every Jihadist, neo-Nazi, and a substantial portion of the rest of the world, it follows that Israel's thorn must not be removed. The thorn provides for control. As long as there are fundamentalists of every stripe, Israel has a place in the greater scheme of things.
“The external threat scenario also surfaces when you get... say,... a rogue asteroid threatening the Earth. Forget for the moment that to call it a 'rogue' is a misnomer. That would suggest an asteroid which has not only strayed from the laws of Celestial Mechanics, but that is also irresponsible and undisciplined. Admittedly it could be termed "an inferior or defective specimen among many acceptable ones", but if it were to hit the Earth... I doubt it would be considered to be inferior or defective.
“But more to the point... just the threat of an asteroid strike works to convince others of the need to spend money in supporting the lifestyles of the rich and famous scientists. Meanwhile, when the big one does go slamming into the planet... who's going to be around to complain about all the wasted money? You really have to see that the potential for planetary mischief is positively awe-some!
“So, what do you think?” Pete smiled blissfully, awaiting my judgment.
I tried to frown but failed. “Have you considered sharing your brilliant theory with the Massad?
Pete laughed. “Are you kidding? They're the ones who invented the theory. It's been well known in Israel since the seventies that the only reason America needed Israel was because it served as a vital prod in the backs of the Arabs and kept them pissed off enough to keep fueling the War Machines. Which, as is very-well known to all students of early 20th Century economics, is what saved the World from the Great Depression... making it a proven booster to standards of living. The formula is to stick a thorn in the side of the Middle East, let it fester, and then sell weapons to both sides like crazy!
“Another reason," Pete continued, "the Arab-Israeli war was so important, was that it served as the main testing ground of a lot of innovative technology... on the ground and in the air. There's a little-known corollary to that fact. Specifically, the only two countries in the world who used live ammunition during training of field troops are Israel and Syria. The fact they happened to be at war enough to where they could also practice that stuff all the time, was just another positive side effect.
“In any case, whoever thinks they're running that show will make sure Israel gets full support until the very last minute, and then withdraw it, making the necessary "betrayal" described in the Book of Ezekiel. Admittedly, all those prophecies might have been referring to things that had already happened many times in the past - but apparently there has not yet been a betrayal on such a scale. The various persecutions of Jewish communities through the Diaspora might not be considered as being on the same level of betrayal.”
For several minutes I just looked at Pete. The more my piqued frown increased, the larger his sheepish grin. Then he took the high road. “Just a theory.”
Before he could voice any greater disclaimer, I stood up and left. Score a point for my side.
 From Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, “Not my department” is the Devil's (Woland's) claim when it came to his not forgiving Pontius Pilate!
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