Richard timidly approached the massive oak door. He hesitated before opening it. An official summons to the Capital was always something to be a bit anxious about but since the new Chancellor had taken power an official summons was now a bit weightier. On the night of the election, the newly appointed High Chancellor had spoken about his lofty ambitions for the nation. He had promised sweeping reform mainly aimed at limiting the power of the Magic Council. Richard, being in the head of the Telecommunication, he had little to do with anything other than the network that connected all of the different provinces. He was told he was expected so he opened the door.
The room was massive and the High Chancellor was at the far end behind a large desk.
“Mr. Dennison,” he said jovially “Please come in. Take a seat.”
He gestured to the chair in front of the desk. As Richard approached the High Chancellor extended his arm. Richard took it.
“Thank you High Chancellor.”
He went to pull away but the High Chancellor held.
“I’m not keeping you from anything am I?”
“Not at all sir.”
“I understand the holidays are a busy time. A time to be with family especially with the end of the year….” He looked down at his watch “just a couple of hours away.”
The Chancellor let go of his hand and Richard sat.
“Outside of my wife I have no family.” Richard noticed that he was lower than the Chancellor.
“Splendid. I just wanted to thank you personally. Your department has been very vital over the last year.”
“Thank you sir” Richard said. There was no way he just asked him to his office to thank him.
“I would go so far as saying that our reliable communication network has been one of the things that has kept the peace and kept the different provinces from collapsing into civil war.”
“Thank you sir, I will make sure to tell my staff.”
“Please do.” The Chancellor shifted in his chair and Richard could see his mood shift as well as he continued. “As I’m sure you’re aware, my rise to this position has been met with ire by some. I’ve made no secret of my distrust of the Magic Council and plans to reduce their hold on this country.”
He paused and looked to Richard, but Richard made no comment so the Chancellor continued.
“Using my own men and your reliable communication network I have been able to secure the stability needed to move us forward. Into the new year and into a brighter and better future.”
He stopped politicking and looked again to Richard.
“I’ve had my men working on a report. Of our progress. And of our shortcomings.”
He picked up a large dossier from the desk and extended it to Richard. “The text it dull and painfully technical but as a learned man I’m sure you’ll have no problem understanding it.”
Richard took the weighty folder in his hand and opened it up.
“Official Audit of the Telecommunications Department as ordered by High Chancellor Stiers”
It sounded very professional at least he skimmed through the first few pages. Reading bits here and there. Mostly describing the networks workings and different technical aspects of the actual running of it. As he got deeper he began seeing specs for a modified transmitter. Then pages after describing different locations and then he got to transcripts. It was surveillance records.
Richard lifted his head to look and the Chancellor was staring at him and nodded to keep reading.
Some of the transcripts had blacked out dialogue others were circled. He looked for names. Colleagues. Friends. It seemed just about anybody worth noting was being watched. As he reached the end of the dossier he noticed his name was not mentioned which was either good or terribly bad. He closed the file and held it.
“Well, what do you make of it?” The High Chancellor said not taking his eyes off Richards face looking for any kind of subtly in his reaction.
“It seems quite thorough.” Richard answered honestly.
“National Security demands thoroughness.”
“I agree.” Richard said, his lips tight.
The Chancellor’s stone face façade broke “That’s wonderful to hear.” He said with a smile.
Richard eased slightly.
“You see, tonight I have decided to close the book on the old year on the old nation. Tomorrow will be a new year and it only seems right that we start clean.”
He walked to the massive window that dominated the wall behind his desk and motioned for Richard to join him.
Richard stood and placed the file on the Chancellor’s desk and walked to the window.
“My political career has been building to this moment,” the Chancellor spoke as he looked out the window “Right now my men are at various points throughout the city to detain would be saboteurs and anarchists and wizards.” He looked to Richard “And as for the Hall of Magic, well the show should be starting soon.”
Richard looked down at his watch and saw the minute hand one mark from midnight. He looked out the window and found the Hall of Magic, a bright easily identifiable exception to the city’s stark brutalist architecture.
“I have strategically placed artillery to ensure minimal harm comes to the surrounding buildings.”
The minute hand on Richard’s watch flicked over and within a moment a distant and thunderous noise started. Flashes of light signaled the artillery’s location and seconds later the Magic Council building erupted in a series of explosions of fire and debris and smoke.
Just as quick as is started it was over. The fires were still burning and a plume of smoke now dominated the skyline but it was done. The Hall of Magic was destroyed.
“I think we got their attention.” The Chancellor said with a tinge of pride. “What do you think?”
Richard felt the Chancellor’s eyes on him as he looked out the window. “Yes sir.”
“Patriotism like yours is most paramount in these dark times.”
“Thank you sir.”
The Chancellor looked back out at the city, “Thank you for helping make my New Year’s message loud and clear. You’re dismissed Mr. Dennison. Enjoy the remainder of your night.”
“Thank you sir.” Richard nodded out of respect and turned to leave the room.
Once on the outside of door he walked past the armed guards and down the hall. Once around a corner and out of sight of anyone he let the anxiety in his chest escape in short gasps as he tried to contain himself enough to get out of the building.
This night would be the first of many to come. Nights of terror. Nights of uncertainty. Every step must be watched even more carefully now. There would be no room for errors or missteps and all of his ties to underground resistance groups would need to be severed lest he endanger them as much as he would be endangering himself.