"Where could he be?" I asked. I had been waiting at the airport for an hour and a half. I had business downtown, and I did not have time to wait there. "Well, I'd like you to wait here for him. I'm going to go down to my office. Please bring him—
"International Airlines Flight 82 from Baghdad will be landing in a few minutes; due to the delay it has been reassigned to Gate E," boomed the loudspeakers.
"Never mind, then." We proceeded to Gate E. The passengers were patted down and sprayed with some disgusting chemical as they came out. He was near the front of the line.
"Before you say anything," he said, "I want you to recall the fact that I spent a year trying to convince the International League not to build their HQ in that place, but they don't ever listen to me despite the fact that I am their secretary of defense!"
"You sound like you're in a good mood," I said in an attempt to sound sarcastic.
"Darn right, I am. I haven't felt better in years. Now, I feel sorry for all those people, but this gets me going."
"Actually, I was being sarcastic."
"Well, you failed–miserably!"
"Well, it's still good to see you anyway, Jason."
My secretary was still there. I no longer needed his services so I said, "You can go now, Stephen. You are aware that I am driving downtown myself."
"Of course, sir; have a good day," he responded.
"Well then, Jason lets go to the entrance. My car should be around in a few minutes."
"Sure, why not? So, tell me how Tom is doing. Does he miss me much?"
"He enjoys staying with us, but he really wants you to come home."
"But that can't be helped."
"I know, I know. He's doing well at St. Bede's, and he just told us that his birthday is next week."
"How well is he doing?"
"He's usually on the A-honor roll and sometimes gets a few B's."
"He must get it from being around you, because he certainly didn't get it from me."
"You're smarter than you give yourself credit for, Jason."
"Still, I want him to have a real home. Life simply hasn't been the same since his mother died several years ago. I wanted to bring him with me when I got that job for the International League. That would have put me in a place where we could live together as a family, but they had to decide to put it in the 'cradle of civilization' and have their headquarters in Baghdad. The events last week show you why I did not want my son to grow up there. Actually, I have been meaning to come here for months, but this bombing has been the only excuse to get away from my office. Where, by the way, are we going?"
"We are going to the Capitol."
"Oh, how exciting."
I opened the door for my friend and we waited for my car. A black limousine pulled up, and the chauffeur came out and said, "Senator Herge, if you will." He opened the door and gestured for us to get in.
"I'm afraid that I did not request a limousine nor did my secretary. I must therefore respectfully decline your offer. Let's go Jason; I have a bad feeling about this." We moved to another place along the concourse. I told him, "The chauffeur had a gun."
"But how can you tell?"
"His hand was in his pocket and the shape of a silencer was pointing out."
"Couldn't it have been something else?"
"Unlikely. They do not allow chauffeurs in Alabama to carry anything in their pockets for the very reason that it may be mistaken for a gun. They aren't even allowed to put their hands in their pockets."
"Then shouldn't he be reported whether he had a gun or not?"
"He did have a gun; if I were to tell him that I was about to report him, he'd have shot us both."
"If you run away from fear it will no doubt consume you. That is exactly what happened to Aaron–he ran away from the Spam and it destroyed him; there was too little of him left to fight back when he decided to stand against it."
"There is a difference…"
"I suppose this is your car."
"That's right." The valet got out of my car and handed me the keys. "Thank you," I said. I got in the car while the young man opened the passenger door for Jason.
"Go," he said.
"Seatbelt… "As I was saying, the difference is that we have other methods of fighting back. We have the power unlike Aaron. We have many friends within the structure, unlike Aaron. We can overcome this without putting ourselves in immediate danger. We are the politicians." By this time we were underway. I was finally on the Northern Boulevard and driving downtown.
"I simply disagree with your methodology, but I suppose you know what you are talking about. Now, where did you get this car?"
"I got it at Jack Ingram Jupiter."
"Aaronco owns a car factory near Montgomery. It is called the Jupiter Car Division of Aaronco. The cars are built from American parts in America, so they are not cheap, but they have proven to be very successful. The company got government support until we put up those tariffs. I had always disapproved of the government funding–that would be why I put through the Tariff of 2015, but I'm sure you know all about that."
"That I do. The car seems really well built."
"It is. And it has the most powerful hydrogen fuel cell engine in the world made for automobiles. This vehicle was so successful that Aaronco was commissioned by the government to build a hydrogen station every three hundred miles."
"Sounds to me like Aaronco is a huge trust led by a robber Barron."
"Not necessarily; the other companies simply aren't willing to convert to hydrogen power. Luckily, government restrictions keep the prices from becoming outrageous."
"Well, then… "Wow, amazing, look at those skyscrapers!"
"Yes, they removed the building height restriction in most parts of the city several years ago. But the crown jewel of it all is the Capitol. You really should see it. You missed the grand opening of the Senate Chamber by about a week. It was really great. Now they are about halfway done with the main hall. It's wonderful."
Several turns later, we were looking up the hill to an outstanding sight. There before us stood the Capitol of the United Provinces of the Spam Republic. It was a beautiful building, or it would be when completed. The north wing, the Senate Wing was complete, but had not been ornamented. The columns were only steel beams, unadorned, and the façade was incomplete, without the brilliant raised relief which the Capitol Committee had commissioned. Cranes and scaffolding surrounded the rest of the sight, and the structure in the middle, the main hall, was already taking shape. It was our equivalent to the Rotunda in Washington, and although our capitol would have no dome, it would be a masterpiece of Neo-Classical architecture in which I had had a small hand. Our building would have parts painted much like they once were in Greece of old. Larger than the structure in Washington, it was a sight to behold.
A large lookout tower stood in the middle of the street. I parked next to it and said, "We're going up."
The tower was in the middle of the grand avenue which was being engineered to be the masterpiece of boulevards. Young trees lined the center of the road, except where the large tower, which was about twenty-five feet tall, stood. It rather resembled a slide in a park, just without the slide part. The steel frame was painted yellow so that it would stand out to drivers who might run into the thing, which considering Montgomery drivers, was not difficult to imagine. We began to scale the steps up to a covered platform which was about five feet by five feet. On the side facing to the new capitol was a plastic window with the image of the completed building on it. It lined up beautifully with what had already been built.
"As you can see, it's a jewel," I told Jason.
"A jewel alright." It seemed to me that he was not particularly impressed.
"What has gotten into you?"
"That sense I've carried for eleven years that I am here for one reason and one reason alone. And well, there it is below us."
"You aren't going to get all wrapped up in that death stuff again; are you?"
"You above all people should understand that someone up there had a hand in for me, and there was a reason… "We faced the utter destruction of this world and the dawning (how ironic it may sound) of an age of interminable darkness till kingdom come."
"There you go preaching fire-and-brimstone again."
"Damn it, Thomas, what do you think we've been living through for eighteen years!"
"Things were never as bad as we had imagined they were."
"No, they were worse… "And I don't know how you became so deluded as to believe that things weren't that bad, but they were. Life was living hell, and now that it's over, I have to concede that I've served my purpose