Masks by K E Holt

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Capitol Square, Basindale, Godotvia May 26, 2097

Milling throngs of the poor and the working stood beneath the flag of the nation they called home, hands pressed to their hearts as they sung the praises of their fair nation. Gerald Aalio, president of the country who's anthem was being sung, observed the spectacle through the tall two-way mirror of his office window.

Through the rain and through the sunshine

Through the triumphs and the pains

We all hail our fair county

Godotvia shall always reign

"I wonder if they know what they're really honoring." Thomas Banks, the esteemed Godotvian Attorney General, looked on with almost a malicious grin.

"I would hope not. That would be a most...unfortunate circumstance for us. After all, how can one rule without the trust of their people? Superiority is a two-way road. We both know that. What was this about, anyway, Thomas?"

Banks scratched his head nervously. "Well, you see, there've been reports of uprisings around Burantown and Lake Florence city. Apparently the Cardboards are getting tired of the jobs that their Caste grants them."

Aalio uttered a long, deep sigh. "Listen here, Thomas-first off, the correct term is 'Bronze'. I have no idea where you've been picking up that sort of plebeian slang, but you should use official terms if you wish to retain your job."

"Y-yes, sir," said Banks nervously.

The president continued as if Banks had never spoken. "Second, they're Bronze. What sort of threat could they possibly pose?"

Banks scratched his chin. "Actually, about that...they seem to have gained support from several Silvers and even a few Golds. Their numbers are easily in the hundreds of thousands, and growing by the week. It's thought that they have already obtained bombs and assault rifles, and several military helicopters went missing in the area, sir."

The president seemed lost in thought, unconcerned almost. To most this would serve as an indicator of apathy, however Banks knew that was not at all the case. The president was hailed as a master of the Xanatos Gambit, able to outmaneuver even the most strategic of opponents. Now, however, he seemed to be having a little bit of trouble-his hands gripped the arms of his chair, shaking at the wrist.

Banks couldn't blame him. Godotvia was a rather small nation, after all, with a population of only around twenty million-if hundreds of thousands were already planning rebellion, and some of them Golds, well, that was not good.

Godotvia the mighty

Beautiful land of fortune

From the lakes to the seas to the mountains wreathed in green

All hail Godotvia the mighty

The crowds began to empty out of the square slowly, the anthem finished. Many dragged their feet, as if they were trying to stretch out their time away from work. Banks frowned. A good working class with a strong work ethic and a desire to support themselves and their country was the backbone of any good country. He looked at the president, who was practically white. This was not good. When the president couldn't come up with a plan it could only mean one thing-failure was imminent.

Finally the president's composure returned to normal. His hands stopped shaking, and he turned to Banks with the ghost of smile on his face.

"Fetch Winthrop, will you? I'd like to have a word with him."

"Yes, sir." Banks was taken aback by the request. Winthrop was a genius, certainly, but this did not seem like his kind of situation-the president's brother was good for many things, but quelling riots was not one of them. However, it was not wise to ignore a direct order from the president. Banks turned and left the room, closing the door behind him with a final-sounding thud.

Godotvia City, Godotvia May 26, 2097

In the bustling academic district of Godotvia City a young woman was power-walking through the streets with urgency to avoid the overcaffeinated reporter pursuing her. The sickly-looking woman-and she could barely be described as such-was clutching a hand-painted black wooden briefcase in her hand, a large book with a title written in complex legalese under her arm, and using her remaining hand to pull her dark grey newsboy cap down over her face. Just as she was about to reach the crosswalk and freedom, the light turned to red. Uttering a frightened yelp, the female (it wouldn't exactly be correct to call her a woman, nor would it be correct to call her a girl) jumped back, narrowly avoiding getting flattened by a speeding Toyota. Unfortunately, this meant that the reporter had caught up with her. She turned and ran towards the nearest door, but was sent flying by a well-placed stiletto heeled shoe.

"Hello, this is Laila Dupont for Godotvia News National, your source for all the latest action. Here we have Erin Wright, prosecutorial phenom from the US of A! At the young age of eighteen, this young prodigy and her genius IQ graduated from Harvard Law with Summa Cum Laude! So, Erin, what do you have to say to the viewers back home?"

Erin Wright looked up, her pale red eyes widening in fear as the sun filtered in under her cap. Quickly she pulled the cap down with a whimper, shielding herself from the harmful rays.

"Um, Erin? Don't leave me hanging here. What do you have to say to the people watching this?"

"Can I please leave now?" Wright's voice was barely audible, a whisper with no attached emotion.

Laila laughed her charismatic laugh-there was a reason that she was Godotvia's sweetheart, after all. "The white-haired weirdo strikes again, ladies and gentlemen!" She turned to Wright. "Come on, Erin. Tell us, what's it like being on the case?"

Wright brushed off her black duster coat viciously, trying to get the dust out of it. "Don't call me Erin, please. And it's...not anything exciting, I-I mean, there's a lot of paperwork involved, it's really not fun, I'm sorry, can I go now?"

Laila grabbed the young prosecutor's hand, causing her to flinch. "Of course not! Now, I know it must be amazing getting so much publicity, but-"

"It's not."

"Well, why not? Being famous is awesome, isn't it?"

"No, miss." Erin stared at the ground, counting the gravel in her head. "I don't like people, miss. Having thousands of them peering into my personal life is rather undesirable for me..." her voice faded out slowly.

"Well, then, I suppose that's a valid point of view, although certainly an unorthodox one. Um, moving on, how does your...condition affect your life?"

Wright seemed even more uncomfortable than before, her eyes shooting lasers into the pavement. "It's...inconvenient, I suppose, I mean, I can't really...go outside too well, and m-my sight, but, I mean, the stares are the worst part, I think, miss."

"Thank you! That was...enlightening. And, if I may ask, what commentary can you offer on your...less-than-perfect record?"

"No comment. Goodbye, please." Wright turned around and ran towards her home, hair streaming out behind her. That's right...I've never won a case yet. It's been four years, and I'm nowhere close to achieving my goals. She turned towards the sun briefly, before turning away as she ran towards the black Ford parked nearby.

President's Office, Capital Square, Basindale, Godotvia May 26, 2097

Rory ran home up the stairs in front of her father's office, hoping to tell him about the events of the day. Her gold and white designer jacket flew out behind her as she opened the door to the hallway leading up to his office.

"Dad, I'm home!"

"I have a proposal for you." Rory paused. Her father's voice, lilting and charismatic, floated through the hallway. Rory knew she shouldn't eavesdrop, but then again, if his father wanted her to go into politics she might as well be exposed to them. Quickly, Rory hid behind a large statue of Henry Proudsworth, the hero of Godotvia, and their first president.

"What is it, Gerald?" The corporate giant sitting across from Rory's father seemed bored, but then again that was normal for him. Rory was far more interested in whatever this proposal was than in her uncle's moods.

"I take it you've heard about the uprising in the Lake Florence area, Winthrop." Rory held back a shocked gasp. She hadn't heard anything about an uprising. This was terrible! Being the president's daughter, a civilian uprising would put her life in serious danger.

"Yes, I have. What are you planning to do about it?"

"Well, first off, we'll need to get some more money. We're in debt as is. The easiest way to get money, of course, is to raise taxes and lower wages. The problem is that we'd need a reasonable excuse to raise the taxes."

"And what do you propose that excuse be?"

"We need to plan carefully, Winthrop. One wrong move could equate to major civil unrest."

"And what do you believe the right move is?"

"You could start a chain of nuclear factories in the Lake Florence area, putting up the front of affordable energy for all. As this would be going on the excess waste would be left in the lake. We could raise the taxes to get money to clean the lake, fire people and give them low-paying factory jobs, and then use the money we save to help quell the riots."

N-no way. My father...wants to do something like that? But if Lake Florence is polluted people will die!

"That's not very moral, Gerald. Are you sure you want to go through with this?"

"I'm sure, Winthrop. Remember, this is of vital importance to the survival of the Aalio family."

"Yes, but it will prevent the survival of thousands of people. Think of them, Gerald."

"I'm the president, Winthrop. I'll handle health care."

"We don't have universal health care."

"Exactly." could you do this? Rory struggled to keep from throwing the statue at him. It was bad enough to find that her life was in danger, but finding out that her father was la psychopath...that was just awful.

"That's wrong, Gerald. You can't feasibly expect me to do something like that to our people!"

At least you're against this, Uncle Winthrop.

Gerald leaned in and whispered just loudly enough so that Rory could still hear him. "You know what else is wrong? The way our system works. Think about it. Who would you believe? The president or his brother? The less talented brother, the jealous brother, always in the shadow of his sibling. I can make your life miserable." All of a sudden his tone turned light and cheerful, as though all of this was just a casual conversation between best friends. "Besides, the whole environment thing is getting blown out of proportion."

Winthrop still didn't seem convinced. "But what will DeLancey think? What will the Russians think?"

"Since when do the Russians, or DeLancey for that matter, dictate your choices? You have to think for yourself, Winthrop. As an entrepreneur, you should know that's the only way to make it in the world. And besides, think of our family. I know I would feel terrible if I, through inaction, allowed Aurora to come to harm."

"I suppose I do need to think of Devon." Winthrop looked at the table deep in thought.

No, Uncle Winthrop! Don't do it! Rory resisted the urge to run out and punch her father in the face. If she'd known that this was what he was really like she would have renounced her citizenship ages ago.

"I don't suppose I have any choice in the matter," said Winthrop finally.

"Truly, you don't. Then it's decided. I expect construction to start within the month. Don't fail me, remember, if anyone gets wind of this-DeLancey, the press, these miserable Islanders we pretend to call our people, anyone, it's you who'll be blamed."

"I understand." Winthrop's gaze was downcast.


"What?" Winthrop looked up in shock.

"Solving financial problems always puts me in the mood for a little jaunt around the court. What do you say? Shall I slaughter you with my backhand once again?"

"I suppose. You always do."

"That's the spirit, brother!" They stood up and left the room, showing no signs of having just decided the fates of millions. Rory tensed up as they walked past the statue, but they didn't seem to notice her. Eventually the door shut behind her with a soft thud.

Rory didn't know what possessed her to do it. Thinking back on the moment, she was happy that something did. After all, if she hadn't grabbed the paper on the desk things would have turned out quite a bit different. But the fact stood that she did, and that choice made all the difference.

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