Electioneering: Part 2
We have lots of faith in the electorate
The Triverse is
Mid-Earth, an alternate 1970s London
Max-Earth, a vision of the 26th century
Palinor, where magic is real
Previously: The Specialist Dimensional Command was set up to investigate portal-related criminal activity. For decades it has been under-funded and ridiculed. Nigel Maxwell is the only member of parliament representing the Earth First fringe party. It’s an election year, and he’s doing the rounds…
The ‘old timers’ gave him a less than enthusiastic welcome, Nigel noted. He’d always been quite good at remembering names, and those of the detectives logged into his memory one-by-one. Kaminski and Chakraborty seemed entirely unimpressed and disinterested, while Clarke and Holland were respectful but restrained. He’d heard good things about Holland in particular, but the man was reticent, every interaction with him abrupt and halting.
There would be no photo opportunities with that lot. The detective sergeants running the shop, Collins and Shaw, were more receptive, but who would want to see him alongside any of them? Nigel needed a proper detective: someone pounding the streets, breaking heads, solving cases.
He knew better than to ask for time with DI Ford, a famously brusque northerner who was about as far from Nigel’s demographic as possible without growing pointy ears or a tail. Miller was a media whore, but that made him cheap and throwaway. Bakker he’d been warned to stay clear of, and Walpole was elsewhere with the Commissioner.
The new recruits were a different matter entirely. That was where Nigel could get some real traction. That had been the point, after all.
“Sergeant Golding,” Miller said as they approached the four officers, “we have a visitor. This is MP for Buckingham Nigel Maxwell. Nigel, this is Sergeant Bill Golding.”
Golding was a big man, tall and wide and it was all muscle. Nigel felt awkwardly small next to him, which he’d have to factor into any photos. The handshake was bone crushing. “Mr Maxwell,” the man said in a deep, bassy growl. “Welcome to the SDC.”
“Yes, thank you, it’s quite the operation you have here. A bit of a change from the old HQ, eh?”
“I was never assigned there,” Golding boomed with a wry smile. “All of us moved to the SDC at the same time the department shifted into the Joint Council tower.”
“Of course, of course. And do you have everything that you need? It’s very important to my constituents that the police have the funding and resources they need.”
“We can’t complain,” Golding said. “In fact, this is the best funded setup I’ve been part of since leaving the army. We might be a small team, but we pack a punch.”
Miller interjected. “Let me introduce you to the rest of the squad. These constables form our rapid response team, led by Sergeant Golding. Philip Scarra, Max Jones and Marie Pensthorpe.”
It was quite the crew. Nigel assessed each of them: Scarra had the look of someone who was entirely at ease with his job, Jones looked a little wetter but still had a certain poise, and Marie was that perfect balance of beauty and power. They’d done well to get her - Nigel could already see the campaign posters. There was something almost heroic about her face, but without tipping over into being overly masculine. Yes, quite the specimen.
“A pleasure,” he said, shaking Marie’s hand first. She lifted the flap on her shirt’s breast pocket to reveal an Earth First badge and winked. “Aha!” Nigel said, pointing and laughing. “Very good, very good.” He looked to each of them. “So, seen much action yet?”
“Since being at the SDC?” Golding shook his head. “Collectively we’re the most experienced squad in the Met. It’s been a quiet time so far since we transferred over. That’s how I like it. What we do is the final statement. There’s no coming back.” He nodded across the office. “We let them do their jobs first. Best result, we’re not needed. Because if they do call us in, people are going to die.”
Nigel swallowed. “Yes, well, that’s the critical thing, isn’t it? You’re on the front lines. Making the hard calls when nobody else will.”
Golding tilted his head slightly. “We follow the chain of command and get the job done.”
“You know what,” said Scarra, sitting up as if he had only just started paying attention. “You should come down to the locker room. See the armoury.”
“Oh,” said Nigel, “I’d like that very much.”
The studio at Broadcast Headquarters was north of the river and west of the palace. Nigel was a fixture on several of the commentary programmes, despite Earth First having only a single member of parliament. He was good for the ratings: his supporters never failed to tune in, and his detractors had to watch so that they’d have something to moan righteously about over their mid-afternoon coffee. Five years ago newspaper headlines the next day would ridicule him, but that had been changing. The temperature of the country was changing.
“Good afternoon, Sarah,” he said, smiling warmly to the host. It was a current affairs programme, discussing the latest big issues of the day. He was sat on a large, red sofa.
“This morning you visited the new headquarters of the Specialist Dimensional Command, the Met police department set up to deal with portal-related crimes.”
“That’s right, Sarah, and may I just say what an exemplary team they are. Working day and night, round the clock, policing our borders and dealing with problems so that we can go about our lives peacefully and safely. Heroes, all of them. Especially after everything that happened last year, of course.”
“I’m sure most Londoners share that same debt of gratitude to the brave officers,” the host said, nodding sagely. “But can I ask about the new rapid response team? Some are saying that it is, and I quote from MP Jules Boite, ‘a gross overreach that risks trampling on all of our freedoms.’”
Nigel sighed and laced his fingers together. “Yes, well, Sarah, as you and I both know, and all the viewers at home, my honourable colleague Mr Boite is prone to dramatic flourishes. Let’s look at the facts, shall we? Sixty per cent of arrests in London are from the koth and aen’fa communities. It’s slightly lower outside of the capital. What does this tell us? That Palinese migrants are a danger to society. Now - no, wait - I’m not saying all of them. Of course not. Many of them learn our language, make efforts to integrate, and contribute honestly to society. I’m not talking about them. And the fact remains, if you’re mugged by a human, you might lose your wallet. If you’re mugged by a koth, you’re more likely to lose your head.”
“Is there a risk of escalation here, though? Should we be looking at the root causes of those figures you mentioned?”
“We don’t need to, Sarah, and I’ll tell you why. We already know what the root causes are. It’s those two bloody portals sat in the middle of the city - apologies for my language. If you cut yourself, you put a plaster on it, and the wound seals back up. Well, that’s how most people see those portals, but they’re not healing up any time soon. So it’s the SDC’s job to take care of the infection - especially with the absence of responsibility we’re seeing from this government.”
They walked down the beige corridor behind the studio, heading towards the lifts. Nigel adjusted his tie and grimaced. “How was it?”
Alice was looking at her notes as she walked. “Good. It’ll play well with the base.”
“I know it’ll play well with the fucking base, Alice. They hang on my every word. What about everyone else? It’s all the other votes we need if we’re going to make progress.”
“I think it’ll be good. I’ll call in to campaign HQ and get the numbers as soon as we’re near a telephone.”
I was a lot easier when he was just a thorn in the side of the government. A loud-mouthed irritation. Then he won the constituency against everyone’s expectations - including his own - and the funding started coming in. He got noticed. That brought opportunities, but it also brought risk. He’d developed a grander sort of ambition.
“Photo op in a pub.”
“Good. I could do with a pint.”
Nigel was exceptionally good at drinking a pint. He barely touched the stuff at home, but when it came to leaning on a bar, grinning, and being Just Like You And Me, he was an expert like no other. Man of the people. Someone you could get on with, have a laugh with. Go to the pub with. Not many politicians had that kind of hold on the public.
He adjusted his tie again. “How do I look?”
“Looking sharp, Nigel.”
“Thank you, Alice.” She had a good eye.
He waved one last time as they exited the pub, back onto the noisy London street. The sun had dipped and the temperature had dropped. Time to get back to the station and out of the city. There was a small gathering of supporters outside, who shouted and high-fived and shook his hand as they passed.
“That all went well, today, Alice,” he said.
She nodded. “Well done, Nigel. You’re very good at this.”
He was. That’s why he was moving up in all the polls. Most people didn’t even know he was MP for Buckingham. That was inconsequential, in the long run. It was a stepping stone to what he really wanted. The pieces were nearly positioned - candidates ready to go around the country. A simmering tension. England just needed a little push.
There was a flash of white then something wet exploded onto his chest, spreading up his neck and onto the side of his face. Pieces of eggshell dropped from his jacket onto the pavement.
“We need to get moving,” Alice said, putting a hand to his back.
Nigel glared at the crowd, searching for the culprit.
Another egg flew through the air, this time missing him and hitting Alice on the side of her head. The raw yolk enveloped her face, the white dripping through her long, blonde hair.
“Who did that?” he said, letting his voice increase in volume. “Who fucking did that?” He pushed ahead, storming through the crowd and following the trajectory of the egg.
A politician being hit by eggs was funny. A good photo for the papers, if annoying and unpleasant for him. A politician’s female assistant being hit? That crossed an unspoken social line. That wasn’t allowed. That gave Nigel carte blanche.
He spotted him. A weasely little man, skinny with glasses and bad acne, probably in his twenties. Classic lefty activist type, which was even more useful. He should be paying the guy, if anything.
The egg was disgusting. He ran a hand across his jacket, the glutinous semi-liquid spreading between his fingers. The egg thrower tried to look tough, even squared up to him for a moment, thinking he was safe from any kind of reprisals.
Nigel’s right hook was right on the money, and the lefty idiot collapsed into the road. Cheers went up all around, then Alice was there, pulling Nigel away. He held up his hands, nodding, as if admitting that he’d gone too far.
“I apologise for this regrettable display,” he said, “but nobody attacks my staff. Nobody!” That’s it, make it about Alice. It’s not about him.
The egg thrower had guaranteed him a slot on the evening news. It had been the perfect gift to round off the day.
They made their way towards the tube station as he wiped down his neck and jacket with a pack of tissues that Alice had produced. He leaned in closer. “Find out who that was. Put him on the list.”
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Original photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash (altered)
Thanks for reading! That was the last part of this story, so next week we’ll be returning to the point of view of our detectives. Phew.
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