Chapter V.

15 Feb

Tado Foleg went into the Improvement Club for the first time in his life.

His appointment was to meet with the leader of the Improvement Party members of the Planetary Camera, the two hundred member unicameral legislature of Horae.

What was the shared purpose that brought together the most powerful person in the Velvet Association and the dominant politician of the minority party in the planet’s representative assembly?

It had to be some shared, mutual interest or advantage connected to the approaching election in all two hundred Camera districts. On Horae politics was at its core a battle for power and votes in these jurisdictions.

The building on Parliament Street in the Avernal district in central Gath was a marble temple to the historical position of the Improvers in earlier days. As Tado walked down the entrance vestibule, he noted the large painted portraits of past statesmen who had been heads of the Improvement Party. Their dominance over the planet was long past. The Improvers had become a powerless minority, while their rivals of the Preservative Party had come to fill and rule all the executive cabinets for the last generation. In thirty-six years, there had not been a single Improver in the office of Primary Minister. Every minister in every cabinet had been a Preserver, without exception.

At the end of the row of thick alabaster columns stood the man whom Tado had come to see, Dro Hullux. Short and rotund, the overweight politician of advanced middle age did not at all look like an elected dealmaker. Flaxen hair gave him a youthful aura of innocence. Hyaline eyes shone with false sincerity.

“Mr. Foleg?” he smiled, and the eloquence of his beautiful voice told the entire story of his rise to leadership in the party. The sweetness of his melodic tones could have charmed the song birds, even his enemies acknowledged. He had a personality very easy to like.

The two men shook hands, then retired to a tiny private chamber set aside for serious talks with outsiders. They sat down in ornate antique chairs made of limewood. Two tumblers of hippocras were set out for them on a small table, but neither of them drank anything.

“I understand that your firm has enjoyed enormous success with its futural books,” smiled the political operator, speaking out of the side of his mouth.

“Yes, and for the first time ever a publisher has organized the readership into a cohesive association of clubs. It is a strong, united movement we now have.”

“That is so nice to hear. It is most encouraging to see and hear of the enthusiasm of the aficionados of these volumes. Such activity must be supported by all of us. Unfortunately, I myself have little free time for reading. May I inquire about the plans of your members for the next year?”

It was now Tado’s turn to smile. He took a sip of his drink and leaned forward. His voice fell to a guarded whisper.

“There is a determination among us, at all levels, to take an active part in civic life. Our people dream of reshaping Horae to resemble what our primary author describes as the system on Velvet. But we are not a political group with influence or any cameral representatives. So, the conclusion has been made that our role must be within an existing organization. I have asked around and find that scores of our members are willing to run for seats under long-established labels. The only question is which side should we unite with in the districts.”

Unexpectedly, Hullux drew his round face into a frown. “The Preservers are crooked hypocrites. The logical choice must be to merge with the Improvers. Our views are progressive and flexible. There is no other place for your Velvet crowd to go. Run under our flag and vote for us. It is the only path to your elevated, honorable goals, my good fellow. That is plain to see.”

Tado became silent, pursing his lips and waiting to hear more.

The politico leaned forward. “We have realistic hopes of success this time, after so many years of defeat. Join our campaign. I promise to be very generous when I become Primary Minister.” He paused as if for effect. “How would you yourself like to be a member of my cabinet of ministers, Mr. Foleg? We can easily find you a vacancy in the legislative camera. Which department would you want to run? What are your personal interests?”

The literary editor twisted his face into a grotesque mask.

“There are other Velvet followers who may be interested in occupying such a post. As for myself, my aspiration is for a more personal, private position.”

“Personal?” asked the suddenly perplexed political leader.

Tado now spoke in a loud voice. “My ambition is to become your chief of staff and most intimate counselor. To attain that, I must prove what I am capable of. The coming election campaign will be my test. If I can produce electoral victory for the Improvement Party, my reward will be to stand at your side and provide sound advice. It will be a politically profitable bargain for both of us, I guarantee you, sir.”

No reply came from the party chief. He folded his hands and fell into a ruminative mood. Consideration would obviously take some more time.

“I cannot promise anything today,” declared Hullux. “It is necessary for me to discuss your offer with my closest associates. Only then can I obligate the Improvement Party to a specific strategic alliance. Do you understand?”

Tado nodded that he did. “You will inform me as soon as there is a decision?”

“Yes,” replied the politician.”I think that I can assure you of this: all my instincts tell me that the final determination will be a positive one.”

With that to inspire him, Tado finished his hippocras, then stood up and shook hands with the rotund Hullux.

As he departed from the marble temple, the visitor from the publishing world was in an elevated mood.

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