Xavier Martinez is a recent graduate from McGill University with a B.A. in Political Science and History. His writing has been published in ZEAL, TheThings.com and The McGill Daily and his photography has been published in The Sunlight Press and Scrivener Creative Review. He lives in Montreal with his brother Pablo.
ELEGY FOR A REPUBLIC
Senator Lloyd Grogan heard the lament in the Nation’s Capital that night. Sitting in the dimly lit study in his private suite, the weary-eyed senator morosely turned off the radio on his desk. “The mercenaries must’ve finished the job,” he pondered. “Must’ve already left the harbor on their way to the Emerald Coast, or maybe Cape Skylandia… Anywhere but this bloody cesspool of a country…” The frantic, distraught tone used by the newscasters of the Republican Broadcasting Corporation (RBC) as they were relaying the events of the night had at first planted a seed of doubt in Grogan’s mind. “What have I really done?” he thought to himself. “Wasn’t this excessive? After all, those guys’ families were never involved in the business…” But he quickly returned to the cool, unfeeling stance he had always taken toward his plan: “Nonsense. I did the only thing I could, now that those scumbags sunk the last of my dreams. They deserve to know what it feels like to lose everything you love… and the entire country, or, rather, what’ll remain of it, will finally grasp the disease that infected this Republic down to its buggered core.” Grogan then opened a drawer of his desk, only to glimpse at his reflection in the small mirror on the desk as he leaned down. What he saw in the mirror disturbed him for a moment: his troubled brow, thinly capped by a scrappy remnant of grizzled hair, a testament of years-long woe and fatigue rather than advancing middle age; the deep wrinkles crisscrossing his pallid countenance as living, breathing traces of the autumnal distress permeating his mind; the cavernous bags under his eyes, seeping down to lips that had barely seen a genuine smile or laugh for a very long time. “Look at this,” he sadly thought. “Where’s the young, handsome, personable senator who once rose like a comet for the people, amidst all the old, crooked pieces of meat in Congress? Long gone now, along with any sense of integrity in this rotten city…” He drew from the desk drawer a syringe filled with a cool blue substance. Remembering the words of the black-market doctor from whom he had secretly purchased it, Grogan sadly smiled, thinking of his beloved wife and the salvation she had desired for so long. “Poor Ellen,” he said to himself. “At least now she’ll be reunited with dear Timmy…” Grogan left his study and walked to Ellen’s bedroom. Opening the door, he could not help but shed a few tears at her dispiriting state. Amidst half-empty liquor bottles and tins of questionable medicine, Ellen laid in bed, gazing at the ceiling with the lethargic stare of someone whose mind and body had been utterly conquered by insurmountable grief. Grogan walked to his wife and sat on the bedside chair. Upon seeing her husband, Ellen weakly smiled, her gaunt eyes shining with a desire to hear the outcome of his plan. Grogan grabbed her hand and gently caressed the grey-tinged brown hair on her wrinkled forehead. “It’s done,” he said. “It’s all over now.” Ellen shed tears of relief as Grogan drew the syringe from his pocket. He rolled up the sleeve of her nightshirt and gently squeezed her arm, waiting for the vein to pop up from beneath the skin. Ellen grabbed his hand as he softly put the tip of the needle on her arm. “No pain… right?” she weakly asked. “No pain at all, darling,” he calmly replied. “Thank you,” she simply said as she leaned back in the bed and closed her eyes. Grogan then injected the solution into her arm and stood back from the bed, quietly weeping as Ellen’s body turned limp and her pulse quickly slowed down. Right before her tragic fate came to a silent, painless end, she softly uttered: “Hush, Timmy, don’t cry. Your mother’s coming to see you now…”
Driving down Union Boulevard en route to the Congressional Plaza, Grogan wiped the last tears flowing down his cheeks and looked over at the city around him. The neon-filled extravaganza of the City Center, with its jagged skyscrapers and grandiose beacons flickering all across the towering cityscape, assaulted his senses with its visual bombast. He morosely scowled at all that flashy spectacle and kept driving down the lonesome path before him, passing by the barricades and control points set up by restless police officers at every major artery of the Capital. Slowly yet surely, Grogan approached the stage onto which the finale of his plan would play out. Further downhill from the City Center laid the Plaza, separated by the murky waters of Dawson Bay from the Shallows, an urban quagmire of dreary, hazardous slums that lay precariously close to the Waterfront. The unflinching squalor seeping from those neighboring boroughs had led, over the past few years, to a constant stream of reports regarding the increasing crime wave and the nefarious trafficking stemming from the harbor and moving up across the Capital, and, from that point on, spreading all across the provinces of the Republic. The New Constitutional Order, which, a few decades earlier, had brought forward the New Republic by revamping the ancient system of the Old Republic, had turned out not to make much of a difference either in terms of alleviating the cleavages between elites, middle-class citizens, and their lower-class counterparts. Grogan had been perfectly aware of the influx of murder, theft, assault and various other crimes that had been afflicting the Capital in recent years. As a Senator of the New Liberal Party (NLP), he had once made the social conditions of less fortunate citizens one of his great battlegrounds. Yet, despite the outspoken attitude he had usually been showing at the Senate and at party rallies, he had often felt rather pessimistic toward the rise of moral qualms and shady inequities that was gradually permeating every sphere of the Capital, from the political and financial cabals that ruled the affairs of the Nation to the everyday violence sneaking up on the streets of the city. And it had broken his spirit to realize that the current state of the country, as quarrelsome and muddled as he perceived it to be, could never have prevented the terrible fate of his beloved son.
The only child of Lloyd and Ellen Grogan, Timothy Grogan was often said to hold nothing but a future filled to the brim with promise and opportunity. A handsome, exceptionally smart lad, he had been home-schooled during his childhood, in what had proven to be a loving yet sheltered life in the company of his parents, who had feared how “normal” children would react to his status as the son of a Senator, and a few close friends. Upon entering high school, he had had some difficulty at first in adjusting to a brand-new social habitat, but had ended up eluding most types of bullying, and grew to become a charming and dedicated student, appreciated by both his peers and his instructors. Indeed, Timothy had a bright future ahead of him, with his parents and mentors believing he would have made a brilliant businessman or lawyer. He had actually started his third undergraduate year at the New Republican School of Law when tragedy unexpectedly struck the Grogan household.
It happened on a crisp autumn night two years before. Timothy and his best friend Terrence McGovern were out on Dover Avenue, a highly popular street of bars and clubs at the heart of the City Center, celebrating happy news. The two had indeed been chosen as the School of Law’s delegates to the Republican Junior Congress, a prestigious venue where only a few select youths throughout the Nation could be designated to participate and supposedly gain unparalleled professional experience. Timothy and Terrence had been partying and drinking the night away, eagerly anticipating their stint at the Congressional Plaza within only a few months. The two had left their last bar of the night and were walking back to the campus of the School of Law when the three hoods intercepted them on the corner of Gallagher Avenue and McCullen Street. The intersection was locally known as a pivotal crossroads in the adequately named Grey Zone, the ten-block stretch beyond the City Center which led either to the South End, where the Congressional Plaza and the University of the Republic lent to the borough an impression of respectability and security, or, further away towards the other side of Dawson Bay, to the dark fringes of the Shallows. The Grey Zone was known at the time to be rather shady in some parts, as some “lowlifes” had been sighted coming up from the Shallows to roam near the City Center every now and then. However, citizens had been informed that the Zone was reasonably safe if people were to walk quickly in the company of others and not linger around. Yet, despite these public announcements, security in the Grey Zone had remained a contentious issue in recent years, with the Mayor of the Capital persistently asking Congress for more funding for the Housing and Welfare Committee, aiming for the Zone to be renovated and made safer for all the residents who transited on a daily basis between the South End and the City Center. Had Congress listened to the Mayor and made the renovation of the Grey Zone possible, Timothy Grogan would have perhaps lived to triumph with Terrence at Junior Congress a few months afterward. The two had just crossed McCullen Street when, according to Terrence’s testimony, one of the thugs sneaked up on them from behind and put him in a chokehold, bringing him down to his knees out of the blue. As Timothy turned back to his friend, his faculties somewhat affected by all the celebratory drinks he had ingested, the two other hoods rushed up before him with their pistols drawn, maliciously staring at the young man like sewer rats coming upon a fresh steer carcass. The corner of Gallagher and McCullen suddenly grew lonely and quiet in the dark. With one of the two thugs holding Timothy at gunpoint, the other one walked over to Terrence, whom the third hood still held brutally from behind, and took the liberty of picking his pockets and forcefully slipping the shiny platinum ring off his right middle finger. The hood then walked back to Timothy, put his pistol against his neck and emptied the youth’s pockets from behind, demonstrating all the swiftness and quiet brutality typical of such street creatures, whom years of indigent pain and anger had turned into cold, vicious, fearless robbers. The three hoods, content with their loot, could have let go of the two youths at that point, had the thug who held his gun in Timothy’s face not seen the elegant watch on the young man’s wrist; a gift from his parents upon entering the School of Law. Timothy loved that watch more than any other of his possessions, and became very angry as the thug slipped it off his wrist. The hood, staring greedily at the prize he now held in his grubby hand, then looked up at Timothy and smiled. His was a sleazy, mean-spirited grin, which, coupled with the sight of his grimy fingers soiling the watch, was too much for Timothy to bear. He stood back and laid a furious blow on the hood’s jaw, then quickly smashed his elbow against the face of the thug who held him from behind. The two hoods had seemingly indulged a bit too much in their gratification of stealing his watch, letting go of their guard despite their guns being pointed at him. However, there remained the third thug, who still had Terrence in a chokehold a few steps away. Seeing Timothy fight off his companions, the hood cursed and swiftly let go of Terrence, who fell down gasping for air, his hands grasping his sore throat. The thug raised his pistol at Timothy and, with a chilling look in his eyes, fired a single shot. The bullet hit Timothy’s neck on the spot, rupturing his jugular vein in the blink of an eye. He collapsed on the sidewalk, his hand grasping his neck aimlessly as his blood flowed between his fingers, the light in his eyes quickly faltering away. The three thugs held on to their loot and fled, scurrying away from the Grey Zone and back to the sordid murk of the Shallows. Standing back up, Terrence saw Timothy dying on the sidewalk, his eyes staring aimlessly into the air and his mouth letting out a painfully dull sound, like a trout lying out on a fisherman’s skiff under the midday sun. The grief-stricken young man ran around the Grey Zone crying out for help, as their cell phones had been taken by the hoods, coming across deserted streets and closed stores before finally spotting a payphone. But Timothy was already gone when Terrence came back to him. Crying by himself, all alone in the night, Terrence held his best friend’s cold hand until the ambulance arrived.
Grogan and Ellen were still sleeping when the police rang their doorbell. Although dawn was approaching, and Grogan was to wake up shortly and get ready for another day at the Senate, the doorbell caught him by surprise, immediately souring his mood with grave concerns. In all his years as a senator, he had learned that a nighttime call was generally not a sign of good news, except, perhaps, for the sudden reversal of a bill or the final results of Congressional elections that bode well for the NLP. With Ellen at his side, Grogan walked to the door and welcomed the officer, who chose to remain at the doorstep, looking visibly uncomfortable as he informed the couple of Timothy’s death. The officer, or anyone who happened to be nearby at that time, would probably never forget what they saw once the Grogans realized that their son was gone. Amidst the hysterical shouting and the flooding of their minds with sorrow and disbelief, Ellen finally collapsed on the floor, breaking down into a gut-wrenching mess of tears and cries. Grogan, meanwhile, tearfully felt as if his heart had been ripped out of his chest and thrown into a furnace, leaving a gaping, palpable hole in its place. And in spite of all the heavy medication prescribed by his doctor, which fogged his remembrance of that terrible night and suppressed the risk of emotional meltdowns at the Senate, Grogan could never evade the heartrending void he felt inside, which resonated even more viciously whenever debates revolved around the same meandering issues of public safety.
It was still dark when Grogan arrived at the Congressional Plaza. The Capital was still reeling at the terrible events that had occurred a few hours earlier, as the South End was swarming with reporters and police officers, as well as a unit of the Republican Guard sent by the President to supervise the area and prevent any more outbursts of violence. The Plaza was now off-limits to anyone save for Members of Congress, who had been given exclusive permission to access their offices and gather anything that could help them through the crisis of that night. Grogan drove up to the gates of the Plaza, brushing aside the wave of reporters surrounding his car and badgering him for comments on the crisis, yet doing it courteously, as any public official in times of crisis would do, so as not to arouse their suspicion. He rolled down his car window and showed his Senator’s Badge to the lieutenant in charge of the Plaza’s control point, who let him through without question. He then drove up to the Senate’s parking area, left his car and walked across the Plaza, passing by fountains, little gardens of flowers and ferns, and statues of the Republic’s great historical figures, once built to symbolize the grandeur and nobility of the Nation. Grogan scornfully glared back at those men of marble as he walked over to the Capitol. A handsome, imposing building of stately magnitude, with elegant porticos and a tall central dome, the Capitol greatly stood out amidst the fountains, gardens, statues, flagpoles and other monuments built around the Plaza. Grogan bitterly remembered how awestruck he had felt when, as a younger man, he had won his first Congressional election, and had soon after headed to the Capitol for the first time as a Senator of the New Republic. “How stupid I was back then,” he grimly thought. “Thinking I could actually make a difference…”
Grogan arrived at the front entrance of the Capitol, where statuary of the Fathers of the Republic loomed over the main portico, and entered the building, walking into the central rotunda. A middle-aged, thickset woman in a blue and silver uniform, who had been standing by the great monument in honor of the First Republican Congress at the center of the rotunda, swiftly came up to Grogan upon noticing his entrance. Grogan recognized her: Frances Wilson, Head Security Officer at the Capitol for eighteen years, married, mother of two, supporter of the New Conservative Party (NCP). The two had known each other for many years, exchanging friendly conversations every now and then. Wilson’s political views, which moderately stood in opposition to the NLP’s general policies, did not really bother Grogan, for he had come to distinguish Wilson, a private citizen entitled to her opinions, from the NCP officials whom he personally resented and sparred with on a daily basis. “Senator Grogan,” Wilson called out. “Didn’t expect to see you here… Sure, technically, all Members of Congress are allowed on the premises, but no one’s been showing up. They’re all scared shitless, you know? I mean, what with all the ruckus going on in town…” “You’ve seen the news?” Grogan asked. He knew it was a stupid question, but was interested in gauging Wilson’s response to the events. “You bet I’ve seen them,” she directly replied. “What a bloody mess… I mean, I never liked the RFS that much, especially since that Davies fellow became Chairman. But still… no one should have to suffer like those guys just did…” “That’s what you think, Frances,” Grogan replied. The cold, indifferent words that came out of his own mouth startled him a little bit. He had always been friendly to Wilson, and the wary, uncomfortable look in her eyes upon hearing those words somewhat troubled him. But he simply did not have the time or the mental energy for any instance of morality or sentimentality towards his plan. “I… Well… That is my opinion, Senator,” Wilson courteously replied back. “But, if I may say so… you don’t quite look like yourself tonight, sir…” “You’ve got that right, Frances… I mean, Officer Wilson,” Grogan said, trying not to further spoil what was surely to be his last encounter with her. “I’ll be heading for my office now… to figure out something about this whole crisis. But I need you to do me a small favor.” “And what would that be?” Wilson cautiously asked. “Call Lawrence Davies,” Grogan told her. “Tell him I’m behind all of this violence. Tell him I’ll be in my office waiting for him. And make sure he gets through the Plaza’s control point no matter what the police say about it… You have the prerogative to do that, as I recall.” Grogan then promptly walked across the rotunda, evading Wilson’s shocked reaction as best he could. He went up the great staircase and arrived on the second floor, where he entered the East Wing and started walking down the hallway toward his personal office. As he passed by the portraits of historical figures and assemblies hanging on the walls, treading under the priceless chandeliers that lightened up the East Wing, he started pondering over the groundbreaking bill he had so strongly wished to enact as Senator. He also ruminated once more on the prospect that, had the bill been legislated, he would never have needed to resort to his plan to attain the closure he so desperately sought.
In the first few months following Timothy’s death, Grogan’s conduct had started to worry the leaders of the NLP. He would arrive at the Senate with a sulking look on his face, refuse to cooperate or even pay attention to the debates that went on between senators, and even scoff on a few occasions at the NLP’s inner deliberations, which he, as per his new state of mind, saw as laughably futile. As he would dejectedly proclaim himself: “Do you all expect me to sit here and take part in your petty games, trying to act like decisive leaders, and just forget the fact that my own son… my only child… was murdered on the streets of this very city?! As if all of that didn’t tell anything about the fucking state of this country?!” Kenneth Pierce, the Chairman of the New Republican Liberal Committee, grew very uneasy at the sight of Grogan’s political decline. An old friend from university, Pierce had held Grogan in high esteem ever since his first term as Senator, helping him shape his public image as one of the most influential NLP Senators since the days of the New Constitutional Order. Perhaps most importantly, it was through Pierce’s counsel that Grogan succeeded in mastering his discourse on social equity and welfare, earning him great respect among NLP supporters.
Eventually, as Grogan’s demeanor grew worse, Pierce and the rest of the Committee decided to summon the despondent senator to a private meeting, with the hope to straighten out the issue of reputation that his conduct had indirectly instilled upon the entire party. Once there, Pierce did not mince words regarding the Committee’s apprehension of Grogan’s attitude, urging him to stop acting irresponsibly at the Senate and resume cooperation with fellow senators. If he did not clean up his act, Pierce firmly warned him, the Committee would then have been obligated to forcefully “incite” his resignation from Congress. However, Pierce also offered advice to Grogan on how to cope with his sorrow. As the latter politely listened, Pierce told him about a senator of the Liberal Party, back in the days of the Old Republic, who had gone through a period of horrendous grief himself after his eldest daughter had committed suicide by overdosing on barbiturates, following a vicious struggle with clinical depression that she had kept hidden from her family. That senator, Pierce said, had ended up proposing a bill to implement stronger regulation on prescription medicines, defending his idea in Congress and before the population by arguing that he desired to spare his fellow citizens the pain of losing someone they loved due to the lenient selling of such medicines and that he acted out of remembrance for his daughter. Gaining strong popular support with his story, the senator had eventually succeeded in getting his bill adopted by Congress, signed by the President, and then officially enacted by the Republican Court. By channeling his sorrow into a bill, and earning the population’s empathy through a personal tragedy that they could relate to, Pierce explained, the senator restored his reputation while marking a milestone victory for his party. Upon leaving his meeting with Pierce, Grogan began to reflect on that story. The senator’s tale of personal struggle and political redemption decidedly spoke to him, both regarding his personal life and his political career. With renewed confidence in his desire to make a difference and reach closure after his son’s death, Grogan retired to his suite for a few days and thought about the ground-breaking initiative he could present to Congress, and to the entire Republic.
Remembering the testimony of Terrence McGovern about the circumstances in which Timothy was killed, Grogan started to focus on the root causes for such a murder to take place. The dreary poverty of the Shallows came to his mind, followed by the apprehension of armed violence in the neighborhood and how it went out across the Capital and beyond, even influencing social unrest in some of the Republic’s provincial cities. Most importantly, however, he realized that, as it had been in countless cases since the early days of the Nation, the chief cause of his son’s death was the right of citizens to legally acquire weapons, especially firearms, as per the Constitution of the Republic, which inevitably led to an increase in criminals’ own violent usages of firearms. Indeed, the founding values of the Nation, as established by the Fathers of the Republic nearly three hundred years earlier, were conceived under the impression of preserving the people’s individual rights and freedoms at all costs and preventing any foreign power from seizing control of the Republic. These values were thus codified into the Constitution, with the original copy still accessible for highly supervised consultation at the Capitol. Nonetheless, one provision in the Constitution was to grant citizens the right to acquire and carry weapons in order to defend their liberty against potential attackers, mostly interpreted as any foreign invasion or civil war that could have happened eventually (and yet never truly did). Although there had been some policies enacted since then to supervise firearm regulations and diminish the risk of civilian violence, especially in the more optimistic days of the New Constitutional Order, citizens’ right to bear arms remained one of the most vitriolic debates in Congress, opposing the NLP’s attempts to regulate it under the law to the NCP’s unwillingness to amend it in any meaningful way. As Grogan kept on reflecting, the New Constitutional Order had restructured the institutions of the Republic for the sake of adjusting the Nation to the changes of the contemporary world. Yet, the interplay between the NLP and the NCP, which both rose out of the defunct Liberal Party and Conservative Party of the Old Republic, was still greatly affected by the revised interpretation of the Constitution into the New Republic. If the NLP was bent on implementing progressive change upon the fundamental laws of the Nation in the context of a redefined Republic, the NCP was staunchly interested in preserving the Constitution into the contemporary era and keeping it as the untouched legislative basis of the New Republic. Gridlock in Congress had thus become a rather frequent problem, with hustling and negotiations between parties becoming common strategies to reach compromise and adopt policy through the simple-majority voting process. With all that in mind, Grogan then drafted the bill that he now envisioned as the single greatest achievement of his career: the Arms Violence Prevention Act (AVPA), meant to bring about a reform for much stronger regulations on the civilian purchasing of firearms, as much for policies such as background checks than for the restriction of the types of weapons available for citizens to purchase. Upon presenting the bill to Pierce, Grogan agreed with his friend on the importance of the wording of the bill, for they perfectly knew that, if the reform was to stand a chance against the NCP in Congress, it absolutely had to deal with firearm regulations by capitalizing on the prevention of firearm violence but not firearms themselves. Furthermore, as Grogan explained to Pierce, the circumstances of all three legislative, executive and judicial branches of government had turned out to be exceptionally promising for the AVPA to actually be legislated.
As stated in the Constitution, Congress was separated in two Houses: the Senate and the House of Tribunes. Both Houses operated through simple-majority voting, through which a bill had to first be presented in the Senate and adopted by a majority of senators, and was then passed on to the House of Tribunes, where it had to be adopted by a majority of tribunes before being submitted to the President and the Executive Council. If the President chose to sign the bill and not apply executive veto, the Republican Court would then have to approve the bill according to the Constitution and, if it were to gain approval from a majority of judges, the Court would then enact it throughout the jurisdictions of the Republic. The exceptional timing of the AVPA, Grogan told Pierce, was due to the latest general elections and its distribution of the legislative and executive powers. After Grogan would have presented the bill to the Senate, with the NLP carrying out in the meantime an intense campaign to gain popular support for Grogan’s initiative and emphasizing the tragedy of Timothy Grogan’s death to fuel public opinion in solving the issue of firearm violence, the Senate would thus have had to vote on its adoption. A slight NCP majority ruled the Senate at the time but, even though the AVPA was presumed to be directly rejected under these circumstances, Grogan deduced that a select few of the NCP senators, who were considered more moderate and thus more inclined to accept a thoughtful compromise with the NLP, could be convinced to vote in favor of the AVPA against the rest of their party, in exchange for the NLP to guarantee their support to future NCP bills on investment in the oil industry or a reduction of the regulations of inter-provincial trade. Once the Senate, under these careful negotiations, would have adopted the AVPA, the House of Tribunes would then have had to vote on the bill as well. However, a slight NLP majority ruled the House this time around, thus ensuring that the bill had solid chances of gaining approval from most of the tribunes. The biggest challenge, all things considered, was truly to get the AVPA past the Senate, where it faced the most chances of being rejected altogether. After the adoption of the AVPA by both Houses of Congress, the President, with the advice of the Executive Council, would then have been required to sign it or veto it. The President hailed from the NCP, and yet was considered a rather fair-minded leader, with moderate conservative views, and was open to debate on capital issues such as crime prevention and public safety. The Executive Council, aside from a few Councillors with extremely firm conservative positions, was mostly comprised of equally moderate NCP figures. As a result, Grogan and the NLP faced a tricky, yet not impossible task in gaining the President’s signature on the bill, and would have been ready to negotiate as hard as necessary with the Executive Council if it meant influencing the President’s decision. And, once the President would have signed the AVPA, the enactment of the bill by the Republican Court would have been more of a formality than a long-winded judicial decision, given the general political approbation of the bill. The political environment for the AVPA to be presented, Grogan and Pierce agreed, was truly a unique time for the possibility of agreement between the branches of government to get the bill adopted, signed and legislated. “A time like this will surely never happen again in your lifetime,” Pierce said to Grogan. “So if you wish to honor your son, my friend, and write your legacy in stone at the same time, then seize the moment… and don’t let it go no matter what.”
Grogan’s office lay at the far end of the East Wing, along with the offices of most NLP senators and a few of its tribunes. All doors in the hallway were shut, and not one human sound could be overheard anywhere. Reaching the stage onto which his legacy would thereafter be written in stone, Grogan was completely alone. “But not for long,” he thought. He entered his office, and left the door open as he walked to the large window behind his desk. Following Ellen’s strong taste in decoration, Grogan had, many years earlier, designed his office in an elegant yet unpretentious flair, so as to appear welcoming to visitors while reminding them of the confident, straightforward politician they would be dealing with. With a large library of political essays and reprinted chronicles of the Republic’s great historical figures, coupled with clean carpets and furniture crafted out of fine oak, Grogan’s office stirred the envy of many of his fellow senators, some of whom had even been inspired to decorate their offices in a similar flair. Grogan stood before the window and gazed at the Capital outside. The South End stretched out from the Plaza below and far into the fringes of the Grey Zone, the borough still kept awake by the flashes of the police cars set up at control points, which were still reflecting on the low-story buildings and accompanied the sounds of the ambulances rushing down the streets and the RBC helicopters hovering above the neighborhood. The City Center, further beyond the Grey Zone, was still immersed in the same loud, bright chaos that Grogan had passed by earlier, with the flashing lights of police cars and the distant commotion of sirens and live newscasts still going on amidst the ever-imposing beacons and skyscrapers striking at the nightly sky. Yet, from the window, Grogan could also sight the Shallows and the Waterfront out on the other side of Dawson Bay, separated from the South End and the City Center by the shady buffer that was the Grey Zone. Unlike the other boroughs kept unsettlingly alive by the commotion drifting throughout the city, the Shallows slumbered off in the dark, quiet gloom of its indigent slums, the concerns of its residents perpetually fixed on their own precarious lives and presumably not very attentive to the chaos that went on across the city. At the Waterfront, amidst the dark warehouses and lonely quays out in the harbor, dockworkers and fishermen were likely preparing their tasks of the day, whether or not they had learned of the crisis of that night, along with traffickers and prostitutes looming around the seedy corners of the harbor to peddle their services into the night.
Looking out at the Waterfront, Grogan sombrely recalled what had transpired after the AVPA had ended up sinking in Congress, along with the last shreds of hope left in his exhausted spirit. After moping at home with Ellen for long, painful days, utterly broken and with nothing left in both his personal and his professional life, he had finally conceived the basic steps of his plan to counteract the death of his dreams and scourge those who had killed them. Following some research, which was carried out as discreetly as he could, Grogan had managed to locate a gang of mercenaries based in the harbor who were short on money and willing to listen to the secret offer of a Senator. They were also rumored to be very good for that kind of job. On a rainy afternoon, Grogan had put on the shabbiest clothes in his wardrobe and taken the bus to the Waterfront, where he had walked inconspicuously to the abandoned cannery that served as the mercenaries’ lair. Once there, he had sat down with their leader and, under the tense looks shared by the rest of the gang, made him an offer he could hardly refuse. Grogan had known too well the scorn of the gang towards the kind of upper-class people he hailed from, yet had managed to remain calm and collected as he told them his story. To his surprise, the mercenaries had reacted more empathetically than he thought they would. “Maybe it’s because they also set out to follow their dreams and seek better lives, only to be crushed by the cruelty of this world,” he had thought to himself after the meeting. “They may be complete outcasts, but that might only be because so many people in this town see them as thieves and parasites who came down here to steal jobs or deal drugs. With all the shit they must’ve been through, emigrating from some miserable backwater in some forgotten province, to come here and try to do something with their lives, only to be treated like the worthless vermin that people automatically think they are? No wonder they’re so hateful to people like me… but then again, this did really help my case…” The leader of the mercenaries had seemed a bit shocked upon hearing the extent of Grogan’s plan, yet had been convinced to take the job after hearing how much his gang would get paid in return. As Grogan had said it: “A huge sum, which I’ll take from the Liberal Committee’s bank account through means of my own, all in cash, but only after it’s done. I’ll make sure the briefcase gets here before you get back from the job. Plus, I’ll hire a ship to take you out to sea, far away to some distant land… this’ll give you a chance to finally say goodbye to this country.” “That’s a nice reward, all right,” the leader had said with a grin. “But man, I mean, I just got to tell you… That’s a big-ass number of people to gun down in one night. And it’s not even those guys we kill... You sure you got the stomach for it?” “Don’t worry about it,” Grogan had coldly replied. “I couldn’t care less about the human cost of this whole operation, as long as it brings those guys down to their knees… as long as I leave some kind of legacy for this crumbling nation, no matter how cruel or sad it looks…” “Well, we got more than enough machine guns for the job,” asserted the leader. “But we can’t do it if we don’t have the addresses of all those guys.” “I’ll get them for you,” said Grogan. “It’s come to my attention that their secretary’s been having some kind of saucy liaison with their Vice Chairman, who happens to be married… I’ve got a hunch the RBC would love to get their hands on that info, so I’m pretty sure she’ll give me the addresses rather than let that scandal ruin her career…” “Smart,” said the leader. He stretched out his hand. “We got a deal, then.”
Grogan recalled the unsettling feeling of warmth he had felt when shaking the leader’s hand and sealing the deal, which he later deemed “OK” given his splintered frame of mind, when he heard the sound of footsteps running down the East Wing. He turned away from the window and stood at his desk facing the door, ready to confront the man who was about to barge into his office. Lawrence Davies rushed in, panting and crying at the same time, his face red with fury and pain. A tall, paunchy man in his sixties, with dyed black hair and plump, sagging features, he staggered towards Grogan, his eyes filled with a primeval rage, his fist clenching a gun. “You sick, cold-hearted sack of shit,” he said in a hoarse, broken voice.
Deemed one of the Republic’s most formidable orators of the past few decades, Lawrence Davies had been something of a fascination for the media ever since he joined the Republican Firearm Society (RFS) at just twenty-four years old. Soon rising as the figurehead for the ideals of the Conservative youth, he had been born and raised in a milieu that extolled in protecting the founding values of the Nation as they had been written word for word in the Constitution, no matter if society were to become more inclined over time to revise these fundamental principles. According to his personal advisor David Merchant, the RFS and its steadfast defense of civilian gun ownership had come before him while he was finishing university, “shining down upon him” as a sign of the purpose that he finally had to assume in his young conservative adult life. By the time the New Constitutional Order had come about, Davies had been fighting his guts out to preserve the legal standing of the RFS as one of the Nation’s predominant special interest groups, and even though the organization was thereafter viewed as an unfortunate remnant of the Old Republic by many liberal-minded people in the New Republic, Davies was still held in high esteem for his fearsome public speaking skills. Ultimately, after he had been appointed Chairman of the RFS, Davies was often seen at the Congressional Plaza in the presence of NCP Members of Congress and officials of the New Republican Conservative Committee, strengthening the alliance between his people and the NCP through upscale meals and games of golf between each of his speaking engagements at Congress, where he vigorously quarrelled with NLP officials. Grogan had always felt profound contempt for Davies, from the moment he first encountered the man as a young Senator-Elect up to their final political battle at the Senate over the fate of the AVPA. He deeply resented Davies’ rhetorical tactics, which he privately viewed as “primitive theatricals of nostalgic emotion-screwing” anytime Davies would speak before elected officials and NCP supporters. But Grogan had not expected Davies to be the ultimate derailing force of his last dream, as it was through the manoeuvres of the RFS, with Davies as the ringleader, that the AVPA was swiftly brought down at the Senate. The careful strategy elaborated by Grogan and Pierce to negotiate with select NCP senators and obtain their vote for the AVPA all came to nothing, as Davies came rushing down to Congress upon hearing of Grogan’s bill. As Grogan and Pierce figured out too late, the RFS had operated on two fronts to block the bill: Davies would address Congress as a guest speaker invited by the NCP to justify how unconstitutional the AVPA was, while the RFS would send its people, paid by the Conservative Committee, to bully the few senators who could have been inclined to vote for Grogan’s bill into adhering to the party’s “principles” and utterly rejecting the AVPA as well as any invitation to negotiate with the NLP. As a result, when the vote was finally held at the Senate after Davies carried out his intense oratorical performances on behalf of the NCP, nothing could prevent the majority of senators from voting against the AVPA, thus crushing Grogan’s dream at the very first stage of its long road towards legislation. However, what destroyed Grogan most of all was the ultimate speech Davies had given at the Senate in the last hours leading to the crucial vote. As Pierce also witnessed himself, Davies had exploited Timothy’s death by deriding it as a sideshow of the “real” issue of gun ownership, rather than the incentive for Grogan to present his bill before the population. In Davies’ rhetoric, the death of a senator’s son was by no means a legitimate reason to “upend the founding values of the Nation” and “defile the Constitution” by drafting a bill that would go against the rights of citizens of the Republic to own arms for the “protection of their liberty”. The New Republic, he argued, had been brought forward to preserve the principles of the Old Republic as the Nation entered the contemporary world, and was not meant to “tear down” these essential values. His fiery diatribe against Grogan and the NLP was captured by the media and circulated all across the Republic, earning tremendous popular attention to the issue by deflecting the debate away from the real issues of violence prevention that stood at the heart of Grogan’s bill. Grogan and Pierce were sitting side by side at the Senate when Davies came in to deliver his scathing final speech, and the butterflies in their stomachs only fluttered more intensely as the Chairman of the RFS rallied the majority of senators to his discourse: “The New Liberal Party tries to conceal their blatant desire to restrict citizens’ rights to own firearms in our New Republic,” Davies proclaimed, “to bring down the essential values of order and security upon which this noble Nation was once built, by pretending that their bill aims to ‘prevent violence’ related to this matter. However, if we pay close attention, their short-sighted, so-called “liberal” views fail to take into account the means already set in place to prevent violence in this country: our police forces, our provincial regiments, our noble Republican Guard and our very own citizens, who should never hesitate to cherish their right to bear arms for the protection of their life and their liberty. The firearms rightfully held by the free citizens of this Nation, to ensure their self-preservation from any hostile force, are the only legitimate defense against the violence seeping into our society!” Grogan and Pierce knew things were not going well by that point, as Davies was pushing all the right buttons to publicly incite the NCP majority to reject the AVPA while appealing to the NCP supporters on the basis of defending their constitutional rights alongside the party representing the interests of these citizens. Yet, the two frightfully realized the inevitable demise of the AVPA as Davies continued his inflamed tirade before the Senate: “Timothy Grogan’s death was an immense tragedy, this we can agree on,” Davies said, with the insincerity in his voice shaking Grogan to his core. “But then again, has it not occurred to Senator Grogan that, had his beloved son held a firearm in his possession, he would have been able to preserve his life by fending off his assailants…? For in the end, there is absolutely no legitimacy to the AVPA, no credible basis whatsoever, and we must never stray from our constitutional duty to reject such deceitful legislation. I assure you, my fellow senators... the NLP may exploit the tragic death of someone like Timothy Grogan, or even manipulate our understanding of violence by wilfully neglecting to acknowledge how firearms are actually our citizens’ best means of defense against any hostile power… but, as long as I am alive and standing before you, they will never take away our constitutional birthright as citizens of this fair Republic!!” As the NCP senators reacted to Davies’ speech with thunderous applause, whether such acclaim was genuine or coerced by the Conservative Committee, Grogan felt unspeakably cold inside. He fearfully understood that Davies had sealed the legacy of the AVPA into oblivion.
Davies stood in the office, catching his breath and wiping the tears running down his flabby cheeks, on the verge of pointing his gun at Grogan. The latter, however, knew Davies was not yet about to shoot him, so he coldly stepped away from his desk and went over to his liquor cabinet, where he poured himself a glass of whisky without looking back at his old enemy. “I first got a call from Merchant,” Davies finally said, his tone cracking into a ghostly shell of a voice. “He was at the Opera when a police officer came to his box and told him some unknown assailant had gone to his home and gunned down his wife and kids. Then I got another call, from Donald Barron. Same thing. Then another call. And another. And another. All night long… Always the same fucking message of my men’s families being slaughtered…” He paused, mustering his words with an unspeakably pained look on his face, as if he was running a rusty razor blade down his throat. “Then... I got the fucking mother of all calls… my own family had gone down like all the rest. Not one single wife or child of any of my people came out alive…” “Tough shit, Larry,” replied Grogan before taking a sip of whisky. “How the fuck could you think of a sick thing like that?!” erupted Davies. “Who the hell would do something like that in this day and age?!” “I’ll tell you who. Someone who’s lost everything... someone who’s willing to bring down the state that’s been lying to his face for his entire life.” “Gone from a liberal flunky to a mass murderer,” snorted Davies. “What a glorious legacy you’ll leave behind...” “You’ve got no right to lecture me about my legacy, Larry!” snapped Grogan. “Whatever legacy I had, you stole it from me, you and your gang of gun-toting leeches, and you ripped it to shreds. Like vultures having their way with a rotting piece of carrion.” He stopped to take another sip of whisky, then walked back to his desk. “Funny thing is, you didn’t just gnaw at my tired old bones… it was the last bits of hope I had left in this Republic you kept pecking at.” “You’re a fucking senator!” shouted Davies. “This wasn’t the first bill you failed to pass! Why couldn’t you just grow up and move on from the death of your fucking boy?!” “Guns kill, Larry. They hurt people. And it was only a matter of time before your people finally figured it out,” replied Grogan, resisting the vile urge inside him to lunge at Davies and bash his brains on the floor for mentioning Timothy in such a horrid way. “To think it only took the death of my son… and the death of my last dream in this world… to bring you all down to oblivion, along with the rotting carcass of what was once a noble nation…” “This country will fall apart, all right,” snorted Davies, “once everyone realizes it was a senator who ordered that massacre…” “Well, it doesn’t matter anymore. You and your goons will live on like phantoms for the rest of your lives… never forgetting that your beloved wives and kids were slaughtered by the very thing you made sure not to prevent. Rips your heart out, doesn’t it?!” “Don’t be concerned about me,” said Davies. “Nothing’s going to stop me from blowing my brains out once I’m done with you. My people can go to hell for all I care, along with any citizen who’ll be sorry enough to live through the wreckage of this country.” “Well then, allow me to fulfill your wish,” said Grogan. He finished his glass, then opened a drawer of his desk. He drew a pistol and pointed it at Davies, who then raised his own gun at Grogan. “So this is what it’s come to,” lamented Davies. “A nation of ruin…” “Heh,” tearfully snickered Grogan. “An empire of pain…”
Officer Frances Wilson was still standing by the monument in the rotunda, waiting for orders from the President or anyone else with authority over the crisis, and pondering over the encounter that was taking place between Grogan and Davies, when she heard two gunshots going off at the same time out in the East Wing. Then came the sounds of two bodies dropping down to the floor, and then nothing but a dull, mournful silence seeping throughout the Capitol.
The Capital was still reeling from the crisis of that night as the sun rose. Citizens set out to go about their daily lives, albeit in the inescapable wake of the chaos of that night. The RBC soon aired a complete report of the massacre of the families of the RFS officials, followed by news of Wilson’s discovery of the bodies of Grogan and Davies inside the senator’s office. Throughout that day, the news coming from the Congressional Plaza never took a break. The President spoke before the media to express his profound sadness and concern toward the horrific events of the night but, when pressed to tell what he would do to handle the instability that would inevitably rock the Nation, was reported to appear extremely nervous, as if he was swimming in uncharted political waters and heading into a monstrous typhoon out in that new ocean. Pierce was interviewed in the midst of a huge shuffle of NLP Members of Congress, with the Liberal Committee meeting up later that day to discuss how to handle Grogan’s role in the crisis. Senators and tribunes rushing around the Capitol were said to appear extremely frightened toward any further explosion of civilian violence, as the agents of Grogan’s massacre were still completely unknown and, by then, had already departed the country never to return. Governors all across the provinces expressed their concerns about the massacre in the Capital, fearing the violence of that night could lead to episodes of civil unrest in their own jurisdictions. People walking on the streets of the Capital were reported to look immensely anxious wherever they went, looking out for any signs of a potential shooting or riot that could erupt out in public. Police cars, units of the Republican Guard, ambulances and RBC helicopters went about the city incessantly, moving on from one area to the next as they attempted to control the repercussions of the crisis or to report the situation as it evolved into uncertain territory. From the City Center to the Waterfront and back to the South End, and from the Capital over to the farthest reaches of the provinces, the fate of the Nation had never been so precarious.
The people of the Republic would learn all about the great tragedy of Lloyd Grogan. They would grasp the RFS’ bloody fall and feel its echo resonate deep into the crumbling institutions of the Republic. Yet, hopefully, they would pick themselves up. Hopefully, they would strive to mend the gaping wounds of the Nation and restore it as a functional state, no matter the long years of gruelling efforts it would take, if it would encourage a stronger, more prosperous country for their children and grandchildren. But most importantly, they would never forget the great lessons of darkness brought forth by the New Republic’s slow, painful, vicious decline. For they all heard the lament in the Nation’s Capital that night.