tagNovels and NovellasThe Freshman Ch. 16

The Freshman Ch. 16

bycaligula97236©

Chapter 16 - A change of plans

Cecilia's the Halloween party Burnside treated Cecilia in a completely normal manner, as though the entire test incident had never happened. It was as though she had purged the entire affair from her mind, as though she had forgotten it entirely. Cecilia knew that Burnside never forgot anything, but she realized that the professor was capable of disconnecting an offense such as the test incident from a relationship once the offender had submitted to punishment.

Burnside's thoughts were not on the recent past, but on the near future. The Danubian Prime Minister's impending visit occupied her mind, given that it was to take place shortly after Thanksgiving break. Just two days after Halloween, the professor went over Cecilia's research and took notes. There was a general discussion between the two women about current conditions in Upper Danubia and Vladim Dukov's plans for re-developing the eastern part of the country. Burnside then moved on to the visit itself.

"The Prime Minister's visit is a private trip. It's not a state visit at all, he's just here to set up an exchange program with the National University in Danube City and pick up some advice about economic development. That's why he's specifically coming here and not doing anything official in DC. And there's something about him that I find very interesting. From what I gather, he's not big on making a spectacle of himself. He's just coming here on a commercial flight with his daughter, a couple of secretaries, two bodyguards, and a couple of his ministers."

"That's it?"

"That's it. It'll be real simple. He'll meet up with the Governor, the president of the university, and the Danubian ambassador at the airport, then they'll head over to the University Memorial Center and we'll be there to receive them."

Burnside then made a confession that surprised her student.

"Cecilia, I've got a bit of a problem. There's some stuff going on that's going to pull me away from having any time for getting ready, including some fires that need to be put out with the university administration and the State Legislature. I have to go to Springfield two weeks from now to make sure we don't lose funding next year and I have to get ready to give testimony. I'm going to rely on you to inform me about what's happening in Upper Danubia. Your research will be crucial to me, because, quite frankly, I'm too busy with my responsibilities to the department to properly prepare for Prime Minister Dukov's visit. I need you to give me summaries about what's going on in Danube City, and I mean not just with the EU road dispute. I need a complete picture of Dukov's government; who the players are and their backgrounds, what they're doing in Parliament, how Washington and Brussels are dealing with them, and any other issues you think they might be worried about right now."

"Uh...OK, but why do you need all that information, Dr. Burnside?"

"So I don't look like an idiot...so I don't look like I've been spending all my time at the State Legislature begging a bunch of ignorant hicks and corporate cronies for more university money...and so I can be properly prepared with minimal effort..."

"But...when am I gonna have time to do my paper for your other class?"

"As of today you don't have any papers. Your primary responsibility is getting me information for Prime Minister Dukov's visit. Your papers are canceled, because I need you for something way more important. If you've already checked out library books, take them back. You won't be doing the class projects."

"But..."

"No 'buts'. You've got your Danubian contacts...your singer friend and whatnot?"

"Yeah, I 'spose..."

"Well, there you go. Put your contacts to use." Burnside paused to hand Cecilia several sheets of paper with a long list of questions. "This is the stuff I need to know. Research topics, so to speak. I need you to tell me as much as you can about what's in these questions. It was stuff I was going to research myself, but now I can't because of the State Legislature crap."

Burnside paused, and then continued with a comment that shocked Cecilia with its raw honesty.

"Now, do you think I'm using you? You bet I am. I need you to surrender your time and your resources to help me, and I'm not shy about admitting it. Right now I could care less about your other assignments. You can spend some other semester digging quotes out of library books. This'll be more important."

Cecilia was dumbfounded. She still could feel the welts from the punishment only two days before. As though none of that had happened, here was Burnside, entrusting her with a very important responsibility of international significance. Just like that, and with no thought that Cecilia possibly would not or could not take on the assignment, with no thought about the fact that officially she still was on academic probation.

Cecilia rushed back to her dorm room and wrote a frantic e-mail to Kimberly Lee, explaining about Dukov's visit and her own role in helping Burnside prepare to receive him. Under ordinary circumstances she never could have expected a celebrity to help her. However, the issue for Kimberly Lee was a personal one, because Dukov had been Kim's defense attorney, or Spokesman, as they said in Upper Danubia. There was hope she would be willing to help out.

Sure enough, several hours later Kim responded, asking Cecilia for the list of questions.

"Send me what you need, and I'll get my friends working on it. My husband knows a lot about our political situation, and he can help you out quite a bit."

Kim then went on to suggest that Cecilia get together with her sister Cynthia to discuss her Master's thesis and the recent Danubian election. The tone of the e-mail was very clear. Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna saw Cecilia not as a music fan, but as a fellow university student and a person assigned to help her mentor during his visit to the US. It became apparent to Cecilia that Kim was somewhat relieved to have someone she knew in the U.S. available to facilitate Vladim Dukov's visit, someone she could trust.

Over the next several evenings, life moved very quickly for Cecilia. In rapid succession e-mails from Kim and Cynthia with answers to her questions filled her in-box. She began organizing the responses into summaries and supplementing it with her own research from websites and her own suspended term-paper project. There were e-mails to Jim Halsey routed through Cecilia asking about the university's plans and what assistance Halsey's fellow economists could offer the Danubian Prime Minister. Cecilia even found herself helping arrange the actual details of the trip. As for a photographer, well, Cecilia knew a very good one who would work for a minimal fee. She called her friend Suzanne Foster, who was flattered at the thought of being the lead photographer of an official foreign delegation.

When she was not writing, receiving, or organizing e-mails, Cecilia worked on preparing a presentation for Ruth Burnside and her co-workers about Vladim Dukov's government. With that she had help from Cynthia Lee, first by e-mail, and later in person. The two women finally got together the second weekend after Halloween, along with Jason's friend Mike. Cecilia, realizing he was the most level-headed person in Jason's group of friends, decided to ask him to help her. As soon as Mike began looking over Cecilia's research, she became impressed with his ability to organize information into talking points and provide real assistance with preparing a PowerPoint presentation.

There were a few other details to be worked out. The Danubian embassy in Washington sent two Danubian flags to Dr. Halsey along with a music score for the Danubian national anthem. The university band had to learn and practice the music, but unfortunately there was no one available to sing it. Finding someone who could sing the anthem took up far more time than anyone had anticipated, but finally a student from the music department located a woman living in California who could travel to Chicago and perform for the delegation's visit.

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Cecilia and Mike became impressed with Cynthia Lee as they got to know her better. She was very informed about events throughout the world, especially about what was going on in Upper Danubia and other Central European countries. Cecilia realized another very important detail, that her new friend's visit to Upper Danubia the previous year was an example of how a single person can change history. Cynthia Lee never would have admitted it, but she was the person who set in motion a chain of events that handed Vladim Dukov's party the Danubian election.

Cynthia originally had traveled to Danube City to conduct research about the political campaign consultants hired by the opposition GDPP (the Greater Danubian Progressive Party) and their use of modern U.S. election strategies. The topic interested her because she had wanted to do her Master's Thesis on the operations of U.S. political consulting companies in developing countries. Once in Danube City, Cynthia took a personal interest in the campaign and began advising Dukov and his assistants about the role and importance of political consulting in the U.S. and what foreign consulting could mean for the Danubian election. She provided Dukov's advisors with the knowledge they needed to counter much of the negative campaign advertising being aired on television by the GDPP. She then teamed up with a group of young Danubian nationalists supporting Dukov and trained them how to monitor and respond to negative campaign ads.

Cynthia Lee's efforts turned out to be successful beyond her wildest dreams. Starting with a very wide lead in opinion polls, the GDPP watched their public support slowly erode as Danubian voters began to form a favorable opinion of the former defense attorney. As the campaign continued, it appeared likely that Dukov still would lose the election, but not by a very wide margin. That wasn't good enough for the GDPP, whose advisors wanted a clear victory. To avert the risk of having to form a coalition government, the "Progressives" launched a final personal attack. The attack was not directed against Vladim Dukov, but against his son Vladik, who had just resigned from the Danubian National Police over a sex scandal. It turned out the personal attack against Dukov's son was a huge mistake that miscalculated Danubian cultural values. The GDPP's campaign completely fell apart when the Danubian Church got involved and condemned the consultants' campaign tactics. Dukov's party won 58 percent of the popular vote as a result.

Dukov's victory was a huge shock to the U.S. Administration, other European governments, and some major corporations that had bankrolled his opponents. It also was a huge humiliation to the political consultants who had traveled to the country with the blessing of the foreign interests. They had charged their clients millions of dollars, but were countered by a single political science graduate student who essentially was advising Dukov's supporters for free. What was worse for Dukov's opposition was the fact they had counted on paying for the consulting upon being able to access the Danubian National Treasury. With Dukov's party controlling 60 percent of the seats in Parliament, it was obvious the GDPP would have no access to the National Treasury and no way to pay off their debts.

When finally Cynthia left Upper Danubia to return to her studies, Vladim Dukov was solidly in power, with an opposition that was discredited, ruined financially, and viciously divided. The story itself was becoming a case study in failed political consulting that would be analyzed for years by political scientists. And to think, the only direct benefits Cynthia Lee ever got out of the entire affair were some connections and a research topic for her dissertation, a lifetime Danubian visa stamp in her passport, and the heartfelt gratitude of her sister's friends.

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Vladim Dukov entered power with a very clear agenda. He needed to prepare his country to modernize, but at the same time preserve its cultural identity. He also wanted to ensure a fair and equitable society for the Duchy's citizens, one that was safe from crime, drug abuse, and AIDS. The people needed to be educated and drawn out of their traditional isolation, but in a way that did not threaten Danubian cultural values. In an era of globalization and aggressive corporate interests Dukov's goals seemed unrealistic, but he was determined to at least make the effort to modernize the Duchy on Danubian terms.

Dukov was an ardent nationalist. Free trade, free markets, and globalization were not priorities for his government. If Upper Danubia could benefit from a trade deal, great. If the Duchy had to withdraw from trade agreements or international organizations to preserve some aspect of its society, identity, or independence, so be it. Dukov made it very clear from the first day of his government that he had no commitments to foreign interests or to the global economy. When he stated: "My commitment is to Danubia", he actually meant it.

The new government started out by canceling any economic agreement that Dukov and his advisors felt was not in their country's interests. The Prime Minister gave a series of angry speeches in Parliament over the winter and worked to mobilize nationalistic pride among the public. However, Dukov's sense of nationalism was not blind. He knew that ultimately Upper Danubia would have to accommodate itself with the rest of the world, but he was determined to use his followers' nationalism to drive as hard a bargain as possible. The rest of the world would learn that Vladim Dukov's years as a defense attorney had made him a very stubborn and determined negotiator, but ultimately one who was willing to pursue and respect an honest agreement.

There was one major crisis hanging over Vladim Dukov as he began his time in power, and that was repairing the damage from a huge fire that had swept across the eastern provinces of his country nearly two years before. The area was only partially rebuilt and thousands of Danubians continued to live in refugee camps. Until the situation of the refugees was resolved, there was no way Dukov could move forward with any other priorities. The eastern region of his country needed a coherent development plan, which was why he was traveling to Chicago to seek advice from leading economists such as Ruth Burnside and Jim Halsey.

Cecilia learned a detail about the Prime Minister's trip that offered a window into his personality and values. He and his entourage were arriving to Chicago in first class seats, but on a regular flight. The Danubian Parliament had provided the money for the trip, with the exception of the tickets for the Prime Minister and his daughter. Those two tickets he was paying out of his own pocket.

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Vladim Dukov was not the only person Cecilia had to prepare to meet in November. Another looming concern was meeting Jason's parents. Upon realizing that she had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving, Jason did something that was logical under the circumstances, he invited his girlfriend to spend Thanksgiving with his family. Cecilia really had no choice other than to accept. She had to meet his parents at some point and it seemed that she might as well get that taken care of as soon as possible.

Cecilia knew that receiving the approval of the elder Schmidts was both the most important and possibly the most difficult obstacle she had to overcome to achieve her ultimate plans with Jason. As had been the case with his friends, Cecilia's goal was not to do anything that would separate Jason from his parents, but instead obtain their support for continuing the relationship. If Cecilia could get Jason's parents to like and approve of her, then it was likely there would be no further obstacles to impede her ultimate goal of taking complete control over his life.

Cecilia carefully assessed the personal details that favored her and the ones that went against her. Her wardrobe no longer was an issue, given that she recently had spent nearly $ 1,000 on new clothing. She also realized that if she paid attention to how she spoke, she could keep her grammar under control. There wasn't much she could do about her accent, unfortunately. As for her personal life, well, as far as she was concerned she had two lives, the one before Chicago and the one she had lived over the past year. What was relevant was who she was now, not who she had been in New Jersey. There were plenty of details about her current life working in her favor, including her assignment as an RA and her role in helping to arrange Vladim Dukov's visit.

Another factor Cecilia thought she had working in her favor was her talent getting people to talk about themselves instead of allowing them to find out anything about her. She would discover that her ability to turn a conversation's topic away from herself might work just fine with people her own age, but was not so effective with an older person experienced in matching wits against clients and business partners.

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Jason was very content by the middle of November, well aware of the benefits Cecilia had brought into his life. He had done extremely well on all of his midterms, getting an "A" in everything other than his exam with Ruth Burnside. He got an 89 percent on the Burnside mid-term, not bad considering it was the third highest grade in the class. He turned in his term papers with confidence, knowing that they were properly done and well researched. The term paper projects also had passed the inspection of Cecilia, whose judgment was every bit as harsh as any professor's could have been. Jason's papers were delivered ahead of time, giving him the opportunity to help Lisa and Ken with their papers. A couple of other classmates on the dorm floor asked him for assistance, which he provided. He became popular as he cheerfully provided help, and in doing so managed to get his fellow residents to think of him as something more than "the naked runner".

As she watched him, Cecilia was very pleased with Jason's progress. He had come to the university expecting to relax and party, but instead he was pushing himself academically and already very close to passing one of the most difficult freshman-level classes on campus. Perhaps Jason's intelligence was only average, but she had forced her boyfriend to develop that part of himself more than anyone could have expected. That was one thing definitely operating in her favor as far as his parents were concerned; they never could argue that she was a bad influence on his studies.

Cecilia continued to tighten her grip on her boyfriend's sexuality during the weeks following Halloween. She became more demanding of his performance and more insistent he learn how to better please her physical needs. As soon as her welts healed the couple went back to a full massage schedule, with him constantly experimenting with new techniques to relax her body. The nightly sessions of oral sex resumed, as did the somewhat less frequent sessions during which she allowed him to put on a condom and enter her.

Following the midterms Cecilia rewarded Jason for his academic performance by allowing him to make love to her the way he wanted. On three separate occasions she fell into his arms and signaled with her expression that she was surrendering her body to his wishes. Jason's first reward was granted when he received the 89 percent on the Burnside midterm. When he got "A's" on two other midterms, she rewarded him yet again. Rewarding him when he performed to her expectations was every bit as important as punishing him when he failed to meet them. She had no desire to control her boyfriend only through fear and punishment. She loved him, and wanted to make sure he clearly understood that by pleasing her there was a real reward waiting for him, the pleasure of taking control of her body for a short time. The truth was that Cecilia enjoyed pleasing Jason and, as long as he behaved properly, was eager to show that she cared for him. The relationship was about much more than just discipline.

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