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Pattern of Infinity - Part V - THE LIFE OF HIS EPOCH

By J. Kel
Page 1 of 18

A man lives not only his personal life as an individual, but also, consciously or unconsciously, the life of his epoch and his contemporaries.

-Thomas Mann

A Greater Than Themselves

Leave me alone!

Stately President Sarkoff sat behind his majestic desk, unhappily contemplating that huge electronic slab curved around him like a frown, flowing before him like a glass plain; confining him like a pen. In that glass was the reflection of a vibrant blond woman, as forbidding as she was attractive. He did not want to look at her. Weak it was to hide (in this office, for him!), but it was also not without amusement to study her gesturing as if some insect caught in amber that had not quite congealed. For almost any other individual on Lindor this scene would have been impossible. Sarkoff would merely have raised his head and the directed stare with the implied power behind it would have been overwhelming. In the Lindor Confederacy, indeed throughout the Federation, his name was legend (in a galaxy already overcrowded with them). But with this one individual, his confident, his nemesis, his daughter, it was he who was on the defensive.

No action must betray him; he must be silent and impervious as a monolith - not a favorite pose but one he could manage. From long experience, he knew it was best to take it; to let her go on until frustration, exhaustion, or both overcame her. Dear Tyce: How you love to play the game. And so much better at it than I.

He toyed with a writing implement. So I have failed you again. Is that not the ultimate role of a parent?

His attention had wavered for an instant. Oh my. I hope I haven't missed something vital.

" . . . I have in addition taken the following steps to reorganize your campaign staff . . . "

He almost smiled, though part of him felt a more appropriate reaction would have been to shudder. She could be terrifying. He often wondered if Tyce were the born politician in the family, not him.

"The following names have been shifted . . ."

He wanted to groan. To her, they're no longer individuals. They're hardly even "names" . . . but that's how it's done!

Tyce reported with crisp efficiency the list of changes. Naturally, he would accept the lot. There was no arguing with such orchestrated finality. He didn't even see a point in protesting, as he drummed his fingers ever so softly on the desk. There is nothing halfway about her. Perhaps her influence was too . . . - everyone said so, but while he did resent her intrusions, he was resigned to relenting once more: the changes to his campaign were essential if defeat were to be avoided. The public barometers had not been registering fair weather of late for his reelection effort, this certain to be final campaign. Barely able to keep pace in the polls is more like it.

He wanted to assure her that he had been planning just such a move, very much along the lines of what she was "proposing". But events, as she should know, had intruded of late. It was one of the drawbacks to being an incumbent. But she never would accept excuses. She understood better than anyone, did she not, the unpleasant realities of the game?

The great man worried. Events had been very distracting of late.

She snapped the screen off and the lights came up. Sarkoff blinked. She stared intently as his face lifted to meet her. "Please review the revised campaign schedule. Some of the changes are minor, but all were necessary," she said.

His eyes centered on her. No assurance necessary. Don't even think of sparing me.

Of course, she wouldn't. She went on. "There are other items. One is particularly indicative of your drift of late. I know you do not wish to appear on the same continent with," she mentioned the name of a popular singer, "but it could hardly do your campaign harm, particularly at this stage. It might even show you as contrite. The people need that every now and then."

Sarkoff looked hurt; Tyce shook her head slowly in reproof. "Contrary to your unmannered opinion-which admittedly should never have gotten to the media-her voice is considered by most critics to be a 'galactic treasure.' It wouldn't compromise any of your principles to act as if that judgment possessed some truth."

A galactic curse is more like it. You are being unduly harsh, darling daughter. I never sought to enter into a public dispute regarding this individual's, oh what shall we call it, singing? I simply stated-in private, I might add-to one of my late trusted campaign staff that what said individual does is yell, not sing.

Sarkoff brought his hands together and twiddled his thumbs, looking relaxed and insouciant. Tyce was not fooled. "So I won't find work as a music critic," he muttered. Tyce was one of those exceptionally thorough people who could convey anger, disgust, and sympathy simultaneously. Sarkoff got a blast of all three. She thinks all of life is encompassed within the sphere of politics. That frightens me. She couldn't be more mistaken. If she thinks that, I have truly failed her.

Tyce continued forcefully. "I am not yet finished. There are even graver matters. Your veto of the education funding package," she concluded ominously. Sarkoff placed his hands behind his head; almost put his feet on the desk. Could the public possibly be as worked up about such things as his opponents? Regrettably, they might indeed. It was most unlike them, but such did happen. The voters: what to make of them? A generation of public service and they were still a mystery to him. In his experience, the masses were usually far more interested in the petty-like those rumors about Tyce. He lowered his hands to his lap and made a mental note. Why did I have to remind myself? I have to talk with Lee.

Anyway, arcane matters of public funding for this program or that, while a matter of principle, nevertheless came within the sphere of "practical". Yes, he was willing to compromise for the good of the campaign. He felt himself becoming increasingly irritated. Do we have to get into that one, now? And will she never finish? He snorted and said unconvincingly: "Anyone can see it was the opposition's attempt to pass an 'unqualified intellectuals full employment act,' and just before election day-amazing coincidence that. I grant it was of questionable taste for me to interject principle into my campaign. It won't happen again," he sounded bitter and hated himself for it.

"Just drop any mention of it. In a few days the furor might die down."

She had a point. Stir the teapot now and his lead, never that firm to begin with, might well vanish. He had heard rumors that some in his administration were already sending out their resumes.

"These errors have hurt you at a time your campaign can least afford it. Coupled with your closing of Lindor's embassy on Earth . . . "

Enough! He rose, spread his arms wide, his voice booming in the huge office. "Very well, Tyce. I let my principles show, musical as well as political. I admit to rubbing their noses in it. Was it such bad manners that I cannot be forgiven?" He let his arms drop, slapping his sides as he looked dejected.

She was furious. "Father, this is not funny."

"Conceded. My actions of late have done nothing to inspire confidence. I am contrite. It is time wiser and cooler heads took over." He couldn't resist: "Where is Blake when we need him?"

"That's not funny either. Your campaign is in serious trouble. Defeat which seemed unthinkable only a few months ago, now seems quite possible. Something had to be done. Now, would you please add substance to this conversation?"

He resumed feigning indifference, his expression quizzical, as if he were before a stranger who for some obscure reason clearly knew much more than she should about him. She knows me better than anyone.

"Your people are worried," Tyce said simply.

He sighed, moving closer. "They have every right to be." My people. Such an arrogant statement, as if I owned them! "They are not alone. Their President . . . ," he stiffened as he faced her, "is with them. But for the moment," he edged slowly beside her, "I see they are in capable hands. So, if you will forgive me," he glanced at the clock, looking impish, "I shall retire for my afternoon nap."

She looked more saddened than angry now. "No one is questioning your ability as a statesman, father. I am sorry if I offended you. But it had to be done."

"Where no offense is intended, none is taken." He seemed to be speaking to the room at large, to the ancient objects that had consoled him during his exile of a decade before as if they were a cheering audience (these artifacts of a long forgotten past reminded him of many things, among them that defeat was frequently the fate of humanity).

Tyce couldn't stand it when he got like this.

"What a team we make. You supply the honesty; I the courtesy, or is it the other way around? Together we keep in order what remains of Lindor's bold experiment in democratic union." Finally, he risked putting his arm on her shoulder.

"Please don't patronize me. I'm not your chauffeur anymore." She glared at him.

"No, Tyce," he agreed warmly, "but you remain the driving force in my life. I promise to tone down my principles until the election is behind us. We will discuss the details later, but for now you have my approval."

As he was leaving, he stopped and turned to her. "We have endured so much together. One wonders what will come next? I do want you with me, no matter what happens."

But to that, she had nothing to say.


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