|By Omashu Rocks||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Omashu Rocks||Political Drama||PG||Decent||Subscribe|
11 May 2013
"...which is why, after much prayer and consideration, I have determined that it is best to suspend my campaign and withdraw from the contest for the Presidency of the Earth Nation." Lao Beifong gave his supporters a solemn look as he spoke these words, and faces of disappointment could be seen throughout the crowd. A few people were carrying signs with the flying boar symbol to show their affiliation with Lao. They were no longer waving their signs proudly, but instead were holding them by their sides as they stared emptily at the ground. One woman had tears in her eyes.
"Poppy and I thank you all so dearly for believing in us, and I want you to know that there is no reason to lose faith in our great country. We are a resilient people, and we can endure any hardships to come. Thank you." His words sounded genuine, and Long Feng would've believed him if the reason he was dropping out of the race was something other than money and power. The former Grand Secretariat was standing quietly in the back of the crowd, alone. When Lao's speech concluded, he walked away without drawing attention to himself. He didn't get to far before was stuck in congestion that resulted from the city's annual Kyoshi Day parade and festival. He scoffed as women dressed as the former Avatar marched by, and that's when he thought of his next plot.
General Fong walked into an enormous green tent laughing with General Sung, whom he had just officially announced to the public would be his running mate on the Patriots Party ticket. "Ah, you'll make a fine Vice President, General," he said, patting his once-opponent on the back. The two parted, and Fong made his way to a long table boasting the finest snacks the city had to offer.
"Feeling hungry today?" asked a familiar voice.
"Yung," muttered the General unenthusiastically. "Still in Ba Sing Se, are you? I thought you had gone home by now."
"Don't give me that crap, you son of a bitch. I did my part, now give me the antidote for my wife."
"Let's not get testy now." Fong remained calm, knowing that he had complete control over the situation. "There's still just one more thing you have to do to earn your wife's healthy recovery."
"I'm not doing anything!" Yung snapped, still maintaining a low volume as to not create a scene.
"So do you want your wife to perish? Tell me, which kind of wood will you use for the coffin?"
Defeated, Yung sighed. "Fine, what is it I have to do?"
Fong grinned. "Now that's a much better attitude. Why don't you back to Omashu and I'll send you instructions. The letter will be made out to King Yung."
"What? How did you-"
"Don't ask how, just appreciate it. Now go."
How's campaign, consisting of himself, Huma, Kumbo, Tanowa, Joo Dee, and Bo, were relaxing in How and Huma's living room the hours before Joo Dee was to be declared the official Liberal Party Vice Presidential candidate. The former general was reading over his speech one last time as Kumbo gave Joo Dee a last-minute prep on every policy detail he could think of, from foreign affairs to taxes to business regulations.
"Right," said Joo Dee, nodding and squinting down at the papers on her lap.
"You seem perplexed about something."
"No, no. It's just. I. We believe that Chief Hakodu-"
"That's what I said, Hakodu."
"No, it's Hakoda with an a."
"Okay!" she was frustrated. "I got it! Don't flood my brain with all of this at once." She then proceeded to read the documents below her, and Kumbo shot How a troubled look. Huma looked at her husband's running mate, worried. How was also concerned. Until recently, Joo Dee had always struck him as clever. She was always calm and collected, when she wasn't talking about politics anyways. It would be unfortunate for the ticket if her one weakness happened to be exactly what How needed her for.
Kumbo took a deep breath and continued speaking. "So raising taxes twelve percent will-"
"Twelve percent?" gasped Joo Dee. "Oh no, that's far too much."
The campaign manager sighed. "Joo Dee, the general has already laid out a very specific platform and we've reviewed each and every policy. That's been determined. What your job will be is making sure we can really sell that to the city."
Joo Dee chuckled. "Alrighty-then. Gee it kinda sounded like you were trying to make me some sort of shiny object or something instead of a leader." She laughed again, as if she could ease the tension after those stinging words that forced Kumbo to bite his lip and plan his next sentence very carefully.
"We have a very important debate tomorrow. General How, being at the top of the ticket, will be laying out the policy. We think you have such an incredible story, and that's why we want you to hammer it home during the debate."
"Okay. I can do that," she smiled warmly.
Huma got up from her seat. "I'm going to go get Taru ready for the big announcement." With that, she called her son's name and climbed the staircase to the upper floor, where she passed Tanowa by the bathroom.
"Thanks again for letting me stay here, Huma," said the reporter kindly.
Instead of replying, Huma looked around to make sure they were alone. "Look, don't think I buy your act for a second."
"Pardon?" Tanowa was genuinely confused.
"I see the way you look at How. I'm not going to make a big deal, because it will disrupt the campaign, but I'd watch it if you want to stay in our little group here. I can tell that there's something weird going on between you two, and if you so much as touch him, I will cleave you from the herd and watch you die in the wilderness."
Tanowa was taken aback at first, but Huma's threat triggered something in her mind that made her want to show her superiority over the older woman. "You're right. When you were out of town, something happened, and just so you know, your husband came on to me, not the other way around." This was a lie, but Huma didn't know that.
"Don't flatter yourself," Huma barked. "You think you're the first woman I've found out about?" After she uttered this, How's wife turned pale, and her eyes widened. Neither woman said anything. Tanowa was shocked about what she had heard and Huma was equally as shocked that she let herself say it. Finally, the latter broke the silence. "Get out!" she ordered. "Get out of my house and don't ever come back!"
Four luxurious carriages were being pulled by two ornately-armored ostrich horses each through a crumbled road in the Earth Kingdom countryside. Coming from Ba Sing Se, one was carrying Lao and Poppy Beifong, the other three containing the large amount of gold Lao was paid by Long Feng to drop out of the campaign. The Socialist candidate had even provided the means of transportation, instructing the wealthy statesman to return home to Gaoling in order to personally see to the safe storage of the gold where it couldn't be discovered. Lao was then supposed to go back to the Earth Kingdom capitol where he would join Long Feng as the Vice Presidential candidate.
"Poppy, this may have been the wisest decision I have ever made."
His wife wasn't convinced. "Are you sure you can trust Long Feng?"
"Of course! Why wouldn't I?"
Just as Lao spoke, the carriage was halted. "Hmph. I better see what's the matter." He reached for the curtains when two rock hands sped into the carriage car and gripped his tunic, and he was yanked outside where he fell to the ground. "What is going on here?" he demanded. He glanced up at a group of people in dark green robes with cone-shaped hats. "You again? Why is the Dai Li here?"
"I'm sorry to make your trip a little less comfortable," said an agent sarcastically. She had long black hair and menacing eyes, and it was the first time Lao had ever seen a female Dai Li agent.
"What do you want?"
"Long Feng changed his mind," stated the woman. "You'll notice that the other carriages are heading back to Ba Sing Se now." Lao whipped his head around, and sure enough, his precious gold was leaving him. "This was a set up!" he cried.
"Right you are," said the agent coldly. One of the other agents called out to her. "Captain Minn, shall we proceed?" Minn nodded and the Earthbenders quickly fired rock shards at the two ostrich-horses attached Lao's carriage and then flipped over the vehicle itself.
"Poppy!" he bellowed. Before he could do anything, a boulder was dropped on his chest, crushing him.
How didn't know why Tanowa had stormed out of his house, but he didn't have time to think about it. Flustered, he wanted to keep his introduction of Joo Dee as his running mate short and concise. When he took a proud stance behind a podium in the center of a Middle Ring park, he first spoke of the qualities needed in a Vice President. He floated typical leadership traits around such as "compassionate," "brave," "resolute," "consistent," and "capable." To anyone who had studied political philosophy or public relations, it was obvious what How was doing when it got closer to announce Joo Dee's candidacy. She was a mascot.
"...and now, on the day we celebrate and honor a great female Avatar-" he had to nearly shout the word "Avatar" because the women in the crowd lost their minds when he stressed "female." Birds fled from the park at the thunderous sound of the cheers, simply at the thought of How's running mate's gender.
"-I am proud to introduce to you, one of the strongest women I have ever met! Please welcome, Joo Dee!"
Trumpets played the Earth Kingdom national anthem as Joo Dee proudly marched out of a tent to the podium, sporting a green professional skirt, high heeled shoes, and hair in a bun. She waved, smiled, and blew kisses at her adoring fans, and she had to wait for two minutes before the quieted down so she could speak. "Thank you so much! I am so honored to be here beside the next President of the Earth Nation!" She turned and looked at How to clap and grin as the audience erupted in more cheers. The rest of the speech was brilliant, and completely scripted by Kumbo. How smiled and nodded, but in the back of his mind he worried that Joo Dee might have not been the best choice.
"When Avatar Aang said that we were all to make our running mate selections public on the same day, I wondered if he had in mind all the chaos it would cause in our great city, huh?" Long Feng's joke earned light laughter from his Lower Ring audience. "And then he has us debate the next day? I'm telling you folks!" The man smiled. Every word he spoke, even his jokes, were carefully factored in to his plan. There was not one sentence that came out of his mouth that wasn't crafted after thorough consideration. The choice to be his vice president was a simple one. He needed someone with some leadership experience who he could sell to a crowd yet who was too incompetent to ever challenge his authority. He gave a lengthy speech filled with words that, while meaningless to him, meant the world to his supporters.
They listened intently and watched with awe as Mayor Tong of Chin Village took the stage. It wasn't hard for the mayor to please the Socialist base. He was known for having one of the highest tax rates for the rich in the entire country, and, although he had made some questionable moves in the past, he had done an excellent job helping the poor in his jurisdiction. He was exactly the kind of candidate that Long Feng needed to excite his supporters.
The short man with distinguished facial hair made his way to the center of the stage, next to Long Feng, where he extended his arms wide as if to give the entire crowd a massive hug.
"My friends, I have come from the glorious Chin Island with a tale. It is not a tale of joy or victory, but a tale of oppression and misery. Lifetimes ago, there was a woman, a tyrant, by the name of Kyoshi! Today, the ignorant people across the world celebrate her, but only because they do not know the truth!" His voice was strong and confident. "She came to Ba Sing Se once, and she came with a mission: to suppress the common man and prop up the establishment! The Earth King told her to put down the poor by whatever means necessary, and what did she do? She devised a way to wage war on her own people! She created the evil organization known as the Dai Li! For centuries after that, the Dai Li made sure that no one's voice was heard and that no one could stop the power of the rich, government elites. The kings' political enemies were captured, tortured, and even killed under their iron grip! Now, our opponents will try to tell you that Long Feng somehow led their efforts, but this couldn't be further from the truth. As Grand Secretariat, he brought the King closer to his people. He tried to destroy the Dai Li, but Kyoshi's spirit intervened!"
A few members of the audience gasped at this line, and Tong continued.
"With the help of Kyoshi's demented spirit, the Dai Li rose to unspeakable levels. Long Feng fought with everything they could, but he was imprisoned! Thanks to the weakness of the leadership guarding our outer wall, namely Patriots Party vice presidential candidate General Sung, and fools within the palace like General How and King Kuei, the Fire Nation princess was able to infiltrate. Long Feng was ready to defeat her, but Kuei gave her the secrets of our nation's invasion plan! We were foiled, and hundreds of lives were lost, not to mention that this city was under foreign rule for the longest time! Don't you see? We've had a failure of leadership!"
"How, Fong, Sung, and Kuei failed to protect us!"
"Kyoshi attacked us!"
"And they worship her! So who is the only man that can save you?"
"Well that went well," whispered Long Feng to his running mate as the crowd cheered his name.
The next morning
"Today's Capitol Inquirer just got dropped off." An angry Kumbo, red in the face, slammed a newspaper on the table where How sat comfortably sipping his tea.
"Something that will ruin your day." Kumbo tapped his foot impatiently while his boss perused the front page article.
"Joo Dee: Vice Presidential Materal or Ditzy Flake?" How read aloud. "Well... that was blunt."
"Like Hell it's blunt. Apparently some 'anonymous source' who 'personally knows Joo Dee' spilled all the beans about how she's 'incompetent' and 'unprepared to hold any public office, especially the Vice Presidency.'"
How sat back in frustration and put his hands on his face. "Spirits... Does someone have it out for her?"
"I hate to say it, Sir, but I think it was Tanowa who wrote it. Notice that the author of the article isn't mentioned."
"Maybe she's getting revenge for whatever she was so angry about yesterday. Maybe it was Joo Dee who made her march out."
Huma, who overheard the conversation from the couch, grimaced and looked at her feet. She bit gritted her teeth, apparently feeling guilty about something. "Do you," she muttered quietly, then gulped and said "Do you think this could ruin the campaign?"
"It just might!" cried an irritated Kumbo.
"Oh," the two men couldn't see Huma's pained face as her back was to them. "I'm sorry to hear that."
"Where is she?" inquired Kumbo.
How ran his fingers through his hair. "In the kitchen. Oh, what am I going to do about this?"
Kumbo shook his head. "Anonymous author. Anonymous source. We call it bullshit on it. We say nothing in the article is based on facts."
"Does it have direct quotes from Joo Dee?"
"From yesterday's prepping."
"So it was Tanowa. Why on Earth did she do this to us?" At that point, Huma got up and left the room. She couldn't take it anymore.
Bo entered just as Huma exited. "Eight more hours 'til debate time fellas! You ready? Joo Dee ready?"
"We have eight hours to get ready," spat How. "Kumbo, you're Kuei for now. Dad, you're Fong." He then called for his son. "Taru! Are you upstairs? Go get one of the neighbors and tell them they're going to pretend to be Long Feng for debate practice!" When the boy had scampered down the stairs and run out of the house, How shouted for his running mate. "Joo Dee, get the Hell in here!"
She barged in as if there was an emergency. "What happened."
"You happened!" snapped How, ignoring Kumbo's subtle gestures telling him to watch it. He ultimately decided that he wouldn't bring up the article, but he was still mad at her for plenty of other things. "You went overboard while campaigning after the speech yesterday. Why didn't you stick to your role?"
"My role? My... role! I'm not some actress! And I am certainly not. your. puppet!"
How was ready to scream his head off, but Taru reentered the home with the next door neighbor, a kind man named Jarack.
"Alright," sighed How, trying to calm himself. Let's get started." He didn't have time to worry about Joo Dee, Tanowa, the article, or Long Feng.
After hours of exhausting debate preparation, General How and Joo Dee were seated behind a table labeled Liberal Party. The Presidential nominee glanced over at his nervous running mate. "You'll be great," he whispered, forcing a smile. Their table was placed in between the Socialist Party's consisting of Long Feng and Tong and Kuei's. To the Earth King's right sat Generals How and Sung of the Patriots Party. There hundreds of people crowded into the fancy Middle Ring ballroom that evening, anxious to see what would occur at the first time each of the Presidential candidates were all together in the same place.
Because of the media controversy throughout the campaign, Avatar Aang, who evidently was the closest thing Ba Sing Se had to an election official, decided that there would be no moderator, only a time keeper. He chose his friend Suki for that task. He role was to allot each Presidential candidate six questions for them to ask of their opponents, each Vice Presidential candidate having one. There would be sixty seconds to answer each question, which How felt was more than enough time.
The two members of the Council of Five, as well as its former head, were in full military attire as expected. Long Feng and Tong wore the typical attires of the Ba Sing Se middle class, and Kuei boasted his royal robes. Joo Dee, showing off an elegant green dress, a pearl necklace, and gold earrings, must have had a hundred pins in her hair to make herself look as beautiful as possible. She shot a wink at Suki, who was dressed moderately in an ugly grey dress behind desk facing the candidates. The time keeper smiled awkwardly and looked down at her papers. None of the candidates made eye contact with their opponents while they waited twenty minutes for the audience members to take their seats. Finally, Suki dinged a spoon against her water glass and turned to the attendees with one finer over her mouth. She then looked back at the candidates and spoke.
"Good evening." She cleared her throat. "As you know, this is the last debate before Ba Sing Se's first ever democratic election. Representing the Patriots Party are Generals Fong and Sung of the Council of Five, the country's highest ranking military officials. From the Monarchist Party is His Highness Earth King Kuei, who hopes to preserve the authority of one sole ruler. From the Liberal Party-"
A few cheers could be heard from different parts of the audience.
"From the Liberal Party are Presidential nominee and former Council of Five member General How and Vice Presidential nominee Joo Dee. Lastly we have the Socialist Party candidates-" The Socialist received about as much applause as the Liberals did. "-former Grand Secretariat Long Feng and Mayor Tong of Chin Village. You have each been briefed and agreed to the following debate format:" While Suki read aloud the rules, How found Kumbo, Bo, Huma, and Taru in the audience. His campaign manager nodded at him then looked through a binder on his lap. On Kumbo's mind was the puzzling situation with Tanowa. Nothing made sense to him. What could possibly have made her so angry? Huma went upstairs just before she stormed out, so could she have said something? Maybe Huma was intimidated by a younger woman being around How! No, that's preposterous... and even if Tanowa was mad at How, why would she write an article that would hurt the party she agrees with? Did Joo Dee do something to her? Noticing Kumbo rub his eyes in frustration, Bo leaned into his ear. "You know, it could be that Tanowa was with Long Feng all along."
"She put on a truly convincing act if that's the case."
Kuei, being disadvantaged because he had no running mate, was allowed to ask the first question. Smiling, he looked the three other tables. "I would like to use my first three questions at once because I am interested in seeing what excuse my opponents come up with. Long Feng, General How, and General Sung, each of you knew about the war with the Fire Nation yet none of you ever alerted me of it. My question is, why did you intentionally deceive the Earth King and keep me in the dark about that atrocious war?"
How knew this would come up, and he had an answer prepared, but he wanted to see how the other two would respond first. It was Long Feng who quickly replied. "Your Highness, you should be ashamed of yourself." Gasps flew around the room at this assertive statement. "Pretending that you didn't know about the war is a pathetic excuse for your lack of leadership. I tried to keep you up to date on all of the goings on of the war, but you were always quick to change the subject or avoid hearing the truth, for what, plausible deniability?" The other candidates, especially Kuei, were shocked by Long Feng's claim, but the Socialist continued. "When the Avatar came to Ba Sing Se, you were forced to address the problem, so you pretended that you were ignorant and blamed others. You even blamed me for somehow using the Dai Li against you when it was you who used the Dai Li to do everything you could to silence me and the Council of Five. The Dai Li was your way of keeping all of us in check."
"That's absurd!" objected the King.
Fong chimed in. "It's true! You sent the Dai Li to my house several times and then blamed Long Feng for it!"
How, realizing what had just happened, felt cringed in his seat. Long Feng had not only dealt a serious blow to Kuei, but gotten one of his opponents to clear his name on the Dai Li. How wanted to push the blame on the Earth King, but if he did, he'd be sacrificing a major attack he had against Long Feng.
"That's not," How paused to think and said "That's not entirely accurate. Long Feng and Earth King Kuei both did horrible things to cover up the war, but the Dai Li was under Long Feng's command and no one else's. I believe my friend General How was excited and erroneously stated that the Dai Li remained loyal to Kuei, but this is false. Yes I briefed the King on all war matters, and yes he did deny any knowledge, but it was without a doubt the Grand Secretariat who used the Dai Li was a tool to silence anyone in the city who spoke up against the war. My first question is now to General Fong. Sir, would you like to clarify what you meant by your previous statement."
Fong blushed and pondered his options for a second. "What General How just said is entirely correct."
Joo Dee smiled and looked at How. His quick thinking was impressive, but the debate wasn't anywhere near over. Tong delivered a stinging question to How's running mate. "Does being a former tour guide qualify you to be Vice President?" he asked.
The woman laughed and recited the lines Kumbo had taught her. "I think you know that I served in public office prior to the years when your running mate enslaved me. I suppose being a Ba Sing Se politician is sorta like being the mayor of a town of crazy people who burn effigies of the Avatars, except that you have actual responsibilities." The pro-How crowd burst into laughter and applause at this line, and Tong was clearly embarrassed.
The next several questions were relatively predictable. Long Feng pegged Sung for letting the outer wall fall twice, as did Kuei. How and Fong drilled into Long Feng more over the Dai Li, and he was forced to deny any wrongdoing. Sung forced Kuei into a pickle when he asked if he was an ignorant and naive king who didn't know about the war or a cruel and insensitive king who knew and didn't care. Joo Dee's questions were among the most effective.
"Long Feng, the face you have when you deny your involvement with the Dai Li is familiar. It's cold and heartless, just like it was when you brainwashed me and other women to be part of your cover up scheme. I'd just like to know, how can you sleep at night, how can you live with yourself, knowing that you ruined the lives of innocent civilians all to assume more power?"
The former head of the Dai Li was beyond irritated. "I suppose you plan on repeating a lie until it becomes true. I've stated very clearly that I don't know what you are talking about, so let's move on to the real issues." His answer came across as unconvincing to the audience.
A few minutes later, How asked Fong what he would say to Katara, who he almost killed just to induce the Avatar State in Aang, if he were to see her that night. Kuei wondered why Tong burned down a statue of Kyoshi, and the mayor retold the fabricated story of Kyoshi's spirit maliciously stopping Long Feng from fighting the Dai Li. Policies were hardly discussed, as the debate ended up being more of a personal smear contest than anything.
Towards the end of the slugfest, Long Feng went in for the kill. "Joo Dee," he started, "this morning an article cited a source close to you who explained that you were, I quote, 'mentally incompetent and should be kept as far away from lawmakers as possible.' The source went on to say that you 'were one of the least intelligent human beings' they had ever met. You've made many public speaking gaffes before, so are these claims accurate?"
Flabbergasted, Joo Dee looked at How, who sighed. "Did you know about this?" she whispered. Her eyes narrowed and she turned back to Long Feng. "You know, a lot- a lot of things are- I don't." She was clearly flustered. "We have this debate in which we discuss things that aren't necessarily for what the people want and so because- for that. We don't talk about the right things. We talk about the wrong things... Like that."
Long Feng smirked. "I think you've answered my question. Thank you."
Suki, feeling the immense struggle Joo Dee was going through, bit her lip. "And that concludes tonight's debate," she said solemnly.
Yung had only been King of Omashu for a matter of hours and he had already ordered his Chief of Staff into his office for an important decision. He didn't know which strings Fong pulled to put him in that position, but he didn't care. All he wanted to do was save his wife.
"I need you to organize something for me," he said uncomfortably.
"What is it you want me to organize."
"I don't care who, but get five thousand people to Ba Sing Se by next week."
The Chief of Staff was taken back. "To do what, Sir?"
- Joo Dee's struggling to pronounce "Hakoda," was reference to how Sarah Palin reportedly struggled to say "Biden" instead of "O'Biden" during the 2008 campaign debate preparation.
- The phrase "cleave you from the herd and watch you die in the wilderness" was taken verbatim from Netflix's House of Cards, because it's an awesome line.
- Agent Minn is my tribute to my good friend , not that she has menacing eyes.
- The name "Jarack" is a combination of Joe and Barack.
- Joo Dee says a line that resembles when Sarah Palin said at the 2008 Republican National Convention "I guess being a small town mayor is sorta like being a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities!"
- Political Animals is May's Featured Fanon!
For the collective works of the author, go here.