The Freshman Ch. 31bycaligula97236©
Chapter 31 - A criminal and a Prime Minister
The next day Cynthia came by the room being used by Cecilia and Jason and knocked to wake them up. They had only slept for about four hours, but Cynthia was unsympathetic. That day, their first full day in Upper Danubia, would be a busy one for them. They had breakfast in the hotel and then walked past the Old City Wall back to the Central Police Station, where Kim already was waiting for them.
Jason and Cecilia spent the entire morning at Kim's office. In that building they came face-to-face with the Danubian justice system, because they saw numerous naked criminals going in and out of the Spokespersons' offices. Some of the criminals had very painful-looking switch marks on their backsides. Whenever a criminal greeted a Spokesperson, invariably they knelt and touched their head to the floor, as required by the society's protocol for criminals.
Jason and Cecilia had to push aside the sheer weirdness of their situation and concentrate on their task at hand. Kim spent hours briefing the couple on the Danubian system for trying criminals, how testimony normally was given in court, how to address judges and other court officials, and even much smaller details such as when to salute and when not to salute. She then told them to type out their testimony on the computer in her office and suggested corrections. She played devil's advocate, trying to make sure they understood clearly their roles in unraveling the coup and how they should answer questions from defense attorneys. Finally Kim had the two witnesses videotape themselves practicing giving testimony in the booking room downstairs to review the next day. Within a couple of days Kim planned to have Jason ready to fulfill his Path in Life and speak clearly to the world about what he had done to stop his father's ambitions.
By the time they finished with the videotaping it was mid-afternoon. They had a late lunch and then returned to Kim's office, where Tiffany Walker was sitting at a desk going over a textbook. Upon seeing Kim she immediately stood up, moved in front of her and knelt.
"Good afternoon, Apprentice Lee. I am pleased you have safely returned."
"Good afternoon, Criminal # 98946. I too, am glad that the Ancients kept you safe through the night. Please rise, so we may serve our purpose in life."
Tiffany's purpose in life became evident as soon as she was off her knees. It turned out that Kim and Cynthia would need to spend the rest of the afternoon helping translate the statements of several English-speaking mercenaries. It was quite likely that duty would take them well into the night. The departure of the Lee sisters drove home the stark reality that Jason and Cecilia would have to make their own lives in Upper Danubia as quickly as possible and not rely on Kim and Cynthia.
Tiffany told them that she would escort them to the university, where they would meet their Danubian instructor and get their first assignment for studying the Danubian language. Oh yeah...that's right. On top of everything else, they had a new language to learn.
Tiffany asked Jason and Cecilia if they wanted to walk to the university, which was about a kilometer north of the hotel, or take a trolley. They decided to walk and enjoy the pleasant spring weather. Tiffany walked alongside them, completely naked except for her collar. She had a backpack full of books with her, but was carrying it, not wearing it.
"Sometimes I wish I could just put this on and free up my hands, but of course I can't, because a backpack's considered clothing. You know the rule, that us criminals can't wear anything except in the winter, when we can wear boots."
Tiffany's statement about her backpack let Cecilia and Jason know that she was open to talking about her situation and available to answer their questions. At first the questions were general, about the university, how hard was Danubian to learn, what was the study schedule going to be like, but then gradually the questions shifted to Tiffany and her own life.
Cecilia and Jason were a bit taken aback when Tiffany described her former life in the U.S. as a stripper and meth user. She really had hit bottom and was just beginning the slow process of the lingering death of a meth addict when Kim showed up at the club's dance stage. The shock was horrible; that afternoon when Tiffany saw the friend she had betrayed sitting right at her feet with an infuriated expression on her face and two dollars in her hand. Kim was absolutely cruel over the next few minutes while "Willow" finished her dance, but out of that cruelty came Tiffany's salvation. Less than a week later she was in Danube City in a rehab program and beginning the long process of recovering from two years of heavy drug use.
Cecilia had a question.
"I was wonderin' about something. Doesn't it piss you off that Kim wants you to get on your knees every time you say 'hello' or 'goodbye' to her? I mean, to see you do that, I just find kinda weird."
"I'm a criminal. That's what we have to do. It's the way things are in this country and I've gotten used to it. But I'll add something, maybe to make you understand why I don't mind greeting Apprentice Lee like that. I've been off meth for almost two years. It's because of her that I got off, and for that I'd lick her feet if she asked me to. If you haven't seen meth, you wouldn't understand where I'm coming from."
"I 'spose I do know. I haven't seen meth, but I have a brother who was sellin' crack when I was in school. I saw a lot of what that shit does to people, so I guess I know where you're coming from."
After a pleasant walk along a tree-lined street the three Americans arrived at the university. Tiffany took Jason and Cecilia to the instructor from whom they would be learning Danubian. She knelt and placed her head on the floor when she greeted him, because a professor was public official. Tiffany took an assignment out of her backpack and handed it to him before introducing the two new students.
With that another part of Cecilia's life in Danube City was finalized, because the language instructor was the man who would be organizing the exchange program with Cecilia's university in Chicago from the Danubian side. He would be setting up the orientation program and hiring the instructors to teach a crash-course in Danubian to new exchange students, the same program that Cecilia would be administering on a day-to-day basis.
The first class was simply learning the Danubian alphabet and a few short words to go with each letter. Jason and Cecilia left carrying homework assignments; letters and syllables they would have to memorize for the next day's class.
Upon stepping outside, Tiffany took the two newcomers to a cafe at the university's language school. The university was set up very differently from a typical U.S. university, because instead of a large student center, each department had its own cafe. The closest thing to a central plaza was the courtyard in front of an old church that still was used for worship services and formal ceremonies. However, the university's social life revolved around the smaller cafes, not any centralized location.
Another significant difference was the lack of a stadium. There were no university-level sports teams per se, and the Danubian Olympic Team was not associated with the university at all. There was an athletic department, but its purpose was to run fitness classes for the entire university. All students had to exercise throughout their university careers by showing up for calisthenics sessions five days per week.
Another difference was the complete lack of dormitories. Almost all students commuted from their homes or lived with relatives. The few students whose families were too far to commute normally lived with family friends, or if there were no other options, in hostels run by the Danubian Church. Tiffany emphasized that there was no such thing as "living together".
Suddenly Jason and Cecilia had a sinking feeling. No "living together", huh? It was Jason who asked the dreaded question.
"Tiffany, I think we're both kinda curious. Has anyone told you...what exactly our living arrangements are going to be?"
"Cecilia's probably going to be living with Victor Dukov's family, which is where I'm staying. One of Victor's sons just joined the Army, and so his room will be opening up in a few days. In other words we're gonna be housemates, and I'll be helping her with learning Danubian. As for you, I'm gonna guess you'll be at Spokesman Havlakt's place, since their kids are all grown up and they'll have room for you."
"But what about getting a place of our own, just us together?"
"Nope. Not gonna happen. And especially not with you two, because of your visibility. You're gonna have to put forth a good public image and show proper protocol. They're very strict about that in the Duchy. I'll give you an example, me. I'm officially a member of Victor's household. My fiancée Vladik, even though he's a cop and Victor's nephew, still has to come over to dinner on Sunday afternoons and formally court me. Even though I'm just a meth head and a criminal, he's still gotta do it. I never did anything formal in my life before I left America. But, now here I'm having to do all that formal courting stuff, just like any one else."
"It's not that bad, really."
"Well, it doesn't sound all that good."
In a lot of ways their protocol makes things easier. The Danubians aren't as concerned about where you come from or what you look like as much as they're concerned about "haráshkt jettít", or "the proper way to live". They want you to play by their rules. They're real big on that. You learn their rules and protocol, and they'll treat you just like anyone else. Once again, I can give you my own example. When I was starting out in the drug rehab program...well you know, I was coming down off both meth and heroin. I wasn't a pretty sight and I had these horrible mood swings. About a week after I started rehab, I snapped at one of the doctors and cussed him out. I did it in English and I thought they couldn't understand me, which was dumb of me, because my tone of voice made what I was saying obvious. The intern confronted me, but I told him I never said anything to the doctor. What's interesting was that all of the other patients quit talking to me, because I broke protocol and then lied about it."
"So what happened?"
"I had to take a switching, and that was my first lesson about the values here. What happened was that at the hospital they switch you for stuff like disrespect, but in my case they were going to cut me some slack because they thought I didn't know what I was doing, you know, being a foreigner and not speaking the language. I thought about it and figured: screw it. Just 'fess up, take the consequences, and get it over with. Once I apologized and took the strokes, that was it. It was as though it never happened after I admitted I was wrong. That's all they wanted, just for me to say I was wrong."
Once they returned to the hotel, Tiffany stayed with Cecilia and Jason to help them with their language exercises. Finally Vladik Dukov showed up to take Tiffany home, and also came with the news that his father was coming back the next day. The first trials would start within a couple of days, because the Prime Minister wanted to resolve the situation of the mercenaries as quickly as possible.
Once Tiffany and Vladik left, Jason and Cecilia went to the pool for a swimming lesson, and then back to the hotel room. They spent a long time making love, first by massaging each other, then with a round of oral sex to bring her to orgasm, then a straightforward round of sex. Best to take advantage of the hotel room while they could, because they doubted they would be spending any time together in Victor's house.
A very depressing thought...
The next day Jason reviewed his testimony on video while Kimberly Lee suggested changes and other ways to improve making himself understandable to a Danubian audience. He would have to speak in English and she would translate for him.
Cecilia and Cynthia also would have to testify, but Jason's statements would be by far the most important of the three. Cecilia would testify about relaying the phone call and Cynthia would testify about her trip. However, Jason would need to explain what set off his curiosity about his father's conversations, how he recorded the cassettes, and how he got into his father's office and scanned the information. He would identify the six cassette tapes and three CD's and state when he recorded each one. Identifying the recordings in turn would allow the prosecutor to use the items as evidence against the three Mega-Town employees; one of who was conversing with Mr. Schmidt while Jason was recording his voice.
Jason did have one problem. He had to protect Rita, the maid who opened the door for him. To do that he would have to claim he got the door open without any assistance, but to that Kim countered: "Just don't say anything about how you got the door open. I bet that question won't even come up unless you bring it up yourself. You went into the office. Period. If they ask you whether the door was locked you'll tell them it wasn't, which is true. Precisely at the moment you went in, that door wasn't locked."
Late that afternoon Kimberly Lee relayed the news that she and her sister, as well as Jason and Cecilia, were invited to have dinner at the Prime Minister's official residence. Vladik and Tiffany also would be there, to allow Tiffany fulfill to her social obligation to dine every so often with her future in-laws.
The dinner was going to be strange one, because so many things were going on at once. Dukov genuinely wanted to have a social gathering and get together with his family, the Lee sisters, and Jason and Cecilia to chat with them socially, but unfortunately, there was important business to resolve as well.
Late in the afternoon Kim told Cecilia and Jason to put on their best clothes. For Jason that meant choosing which suit looked best, while Cecilia simply would wear her Danubian dress and shawl. The Lee sisters showed up in formal dresses accompanied by Tiffany who, as always, was completely naked.
Shortly afterwards, five Americans, four of them formally dressed and the fifth completely undressed, made their way around the Old City Wall towards the Prime Minister's official residence. Kim explained to Jason and Cecilia that they would follow her lead and salute the Prime Minister and his wife when they came out. However, once the official greeting was over, they should expect Dukov to converse with them just like he would with anyone else. Maritza did not speak any English at all, while Vladik and Anyia spoke it badly, so there would have to be pauses for translating.
The residence was a very pleasant 18th Century Mansion, full of antique furniture and portraits of past Dukes and Prime Ministers. Once they arrived, the guests stood at attention, waiting for the Dukov family to come out and greet them. Vladik opened the door and held it for the rest of his family. Once Dukov was in sight the others saluted him, with the exception of Tiffany, who dropped to her knees and touched her head to the ground. Dukov returned the salute and asked Tiffany to stand up. That was it for formality, and a few seconds later everyone was inside seated at the dining room table.
There was the obligatory "how was your trip" part of the conversation, followed by the Prime Minister's description of his trip to Greece. He gave an update on the status of the prisoners and mentioned his negotiations with other foreign leaders in his efforts to get rid of the lower-ranking fighters through repatriation.
Finally, Dukov discussed two important issues affecting the country. The Parliament of his country's southern neighbor finally ratified the border treaty negotiated earlier in the year and a signing ceremony was slated for then end of June. Teams of surveyors already were setting up markers along the areas were the border was being changed.
The second announcement was the apparent capitulation of the EU over the trucking route destined to bisect the eastern part of the country. It turned out the coup attempt swung public opinion in many countries in favor of Dukov and other leaders felt forced to meet his demands. The road would be built, but paid for by the EU, not Upper Danubia. Only Danubian workers would be used in the construction, which pretty much would resolve the unemployment situation in the eastern provinces. What was even better, the EU had re-issued its invitation for Upper Danubia to join, but with several major concessions not included in the original treaty. It was clear that Dukov had played on a feeling of international guilt to obtain maximum advantage for his country.
"There is one concession I needed to make to my counterparts," concluded Dukov, "and that was my promise not to execute any of the prisoners we convict from the coup. In the beginning it will be very difficult to explain that concession to the Danubian people. The citizens of this country are very angry and wish to paint the streets with the blood of our attackers, but now will be unable to do so. It is a dilemma for me, but perhaps one less than people think. Through our laws, I intend to resolve the dilemma to the satisfaction of the Danubian nation."
Dukov moved on to Jason's situation. He was very grateful to his young guest and made that quite clear. Then he questioned the college student about what he knew about Mega-Town Associates and his father's role in the coup. Dukov did not understand what a lobbyist was, so Jason and Cynthia spent several minutes educating the Prime Minister about that aspect of U.S. political life.
Jason's host was curious to understand his reasoning for turning against his father, since doing such a thing was not at all common in the Duchy. It was Cynthia who had to translate, not the English, which the Prime Minister understood very well, but the more intangible language of honor, fairness, and idealism. She explained that Jason felt his father had dishonored the Schmidt family by becoming involved in the coup plot. Jason's motivation for helping the Danubians stemmed from his belief that he needed to redeem his family's honor. Jason believed that his path in life was to restore the honor of his family, by undermining the dishonorable actions of a member whose soul had become damaged by greed.
It was very strange for Jason to hear his own motivations translated to allow a foreign mind with a different way of viewing the world to understand them. Jason simply would have said "I didn't think what my dad wanted to do was fair." However, he realized that the words Cynthia used for expressing his motives were just as true as his own words would have been, just phrased differently.
Jason realized something else at that moment. His concerns went way beyond his own family's "honor" and what he saw as "fair" and "unfair". He hated the corporate culture and ideology of greed that his father and Mega-Town Associates represented and defended. He decided to add another dimension to Cynthia's explanation about his motives, trying to use the Duchy's values to explain himself.
"Prime Minister Dukov, there's more to this than just the honor of my family. I think we're also talking about the honor of the United States. I don't want the people of Upper Danubia to think that everybody in my country likes what's happening. I think that most people in the U.S. don't like it at all, what these corporations are doing to the world, but we don't know what to do about it. Corporations like Mega-Town...like you'd put it... are poisoning our souls and dishonoring our people. What I did was to try, as an American, to prevent something that would have made the whole country look bad...or...I guess as you'd say it, dishonor us...I mean like...dishonor America. And...I mean...when I go to court...I want to tell you...and tell the world...that we Americans aren't all like that. We're just not. We're not all like those Mega-Town CEO's. That's just not the way most of us think. I want you guys to get that..."