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Sworn to king and country. Sworn to obedience. Sworn to march without questioning, without ceasing, without falling. Sworn to fight those with whom there is no personal feud, to strike back at the gestalt mind of the Enemy. This is the duty of a soldier. If you cut them, they’ll bleed the colors of the flag…or be dubbed Traitor. You can be certain that the foundations of peacetime are built upon the foundations of these brave soldiers. And so…
It is naturally of interest to a soldier when the seat of power is up for grabs. For those who can watch from afar from the comfort of recliners, or listen to insignificant grumbling on the radio, the Leader is merely a figurehead. Politics move so slowly, ways of life are rarely changed. But for the soldier…change brings the smell of napalm and death on the air.
And now the seasons changed again, the throne of the United States nearly vacant. Two challengers had clawed their way to near victory…Atticus Blair an official in the Nippon government. Orpheus Ziev, representative to the United States Senate (Kentucky). Atticus had been actively campaigning for a while now, making himself trusted among the populace. Orpheus…was opaque. He hadn’t even appeared publically since announcing his candidacy, though his posters were still everywhere. Though mystery did sell papers.
One troubling thing…one very troubling thing…both Atticus and Orpheus had failed. Atticus Finch was unable to save an innocent man’s life. The musical Orpheus’ willpower gave out at the last moment condemning his love to cold death. And to a being like Portrait, Project Picasso, constructed herself from what most would consider fiction, this was very troubling indeed.
So she had taken matters into her own hands. Portrait would be questioning the candidates personally…their first official debate to be precise, hosted by the anti-government organization, Fox Company. Well, it HAD been anti-government, but most of the members had long since gone their own ways, and with Mark XV gone the military born-and-raised Portrait had made some changes around here.
The main chamber, where the team used to assemble to get missions, had been converted into a stage…two podiums, American flag backdrop, the whole ten yards. But behind the flag was a teleporter pad that would allow access from Earth, and the podiums could be turned into escape capsules and jettisoned in case of an emergency. There were monitors and cameras everywhere, but the great window that allowed a view into space had been left untouched. Portrait had changed all the access codes this morning. She had also booby-trapped all the other areas of the base to keep away any of her teammates who might be less than happy with political debates…or take it as an excuse to try an assassination attempt. Well, if the Escher structures laced throughout the base didn’t keep them away, nothing would.
The candidates would be here soon now. Portrait leaned against the window, and searched for a horizon she knew she would never find. She thought of her own world, unreachable now…that b@stard Io had made sure of that. All she had was a comms unit that was slowly running out of power. And one set of standing orders: keep this world safe…though any means necessary.
The teleporters buzzed, then flashed into life. Particles aligned and reformed, and it was time to begin. Cameras began to roll automatically, sending a broadcast down to Earth.
Portrait spun around, snapping into a salute. “Welcome. I am Colonel Persephone Gray, identification number 011235813, agent of the United States Military, division N.Y.A.R.L.A.T.H.O.T.E.P, subdivision Project Picasso. It is an honor to have you here today. Mr. Blair. Mr. Ziev,” she nodded at each of them, still standing at attention. She was dressed in a colorful military camouflage, her official uniform back at home. Her weapons were concealed to keep the candidates at ease…but there would be no need for bodyguards today. Medals jingled on her coat lapel. She dropped the salute, standing at ease with her hands behind her back. “We will be following the standard rules today…no punches below the waist,” she quipped, trying to put the candidates at ease…or maybe just herself, “no talking out of turn, follow the given time constraints, and please refrain from mudslinging, both literally and figuratively.” Not that there was any mud here, of course…Eagle Eye had top of the line air filtration, and was spotless. “Questions will be sent in from Earth, and will appear on the monitors. They have been screened by appropriate officials Earthside.” As she spoke, several animated spokespeople appeared on the screens…they would be asking the questions, gathered from around the country. The simulacra were blocky and primitive, falling far within the uncanny valley. But they would do. “Gentleman, let us begin, Mr. Blair, would you like to start?” One of the simulacra moved jerkily and began to speak in a heavily synthesized voice.
The first steps had been taken on the Yellow Brick Road leading to the presidency.